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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Grace lavished upon us and Blessings poured out over us!

Grace lavished upon us and Blessings poured out over us

Our Scripture reading last Sunday in church was from Ephesians 1:3-14.  When this Bible passage was originally written it was all one very long sentence!  And that long sentence in Ephesians describes the great riches we have in Jesus Christ and tells of the many blessings that God has given us as believers in Christ.

It would seem that the writer, St. Paul, was so enthusiastic about the many blessings that God pours out over His children that he could not slow down long enough to write in sentences.  In his excitement his words all ran together and in his passion he never stopped long enough to punctuate the end of sentences with periods. Pauls’ one long sentence in Ephesians jubilantly broadcasts the many blessings that have been given to us from God our Father.  And it joyfully proclaims the many blessings that we receive through Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior.  And finally it eagerly tells of even more gifts and more graces that are ours through the Holy Spirit. 

Let’s read Pauls’ long sentence here:  “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 and in love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters 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 and in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding and He made known unto us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposes in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together  under one head, even Christ and in Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory and you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory.”  (Ephesians 1:3-14)

It is hard for us to take in all the great riches and many spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ.  It’s all more than our little minds can begin to understand. God has chosen you in Christ.  Has loved you with an everlasting love.   Has predestined you to be His beloved child through Jesus Christ.  Has given you a spiritual union with Christ. Given you salvation when you heard the Word of Truth and believed.  Has forgiven your sins. Bestowed on you the gift of eternal life. Freely pours blessings over you.

 God lavishes on you the riches of His grace. Seals you with His Holy Spirit.  Guarantees your inheritance into the kingdom of heaven. Gives you redemption through His blood.  Makes known to you the mystery of His will.  Has created you for a purpose. Called you to follow Christ. Has made you an Overcomer through Jesus Christ.  Promises to be with you always.  Promises to give you His strength and help as you go through life.  Promises to answer your prayers.  Clothes you with His righteousness.  The blessings go on and on!

When you ask yourselves the question: “Who am I?” do you answer by standing on what the Word of God says about you - that you are the beloved child of God and you have been given all  these many spiritual blessings in Christ?  That you bring pleasure to God. Or do you soon forget who Scripture says you are and judge yourself by worldly standards? 

Forgetting Gods’ answer, you may ask the question: “Who am I?”  And you answer that question by answering that (1) you are what you do.  –I have value because of my job or position or my lack of a job or my missed opportunities.  You also may answer the question of: “Who am I?” by asking: (2) what do other people say about me?  You feel comfortable when people are saying good things about you and you feel shame and anger when people are putting you down.  And you may also answer the question: “Who am I?” by believing that: (3) I am what I have – or the lack of what I have.  Besides money this includes my relationships or my lack or loss of those relationships.  I am less when I lose money or an important relationship.  

So you may believe that who you are hangs on how you answer those three questions.  If you have money and a good job and good relationships you feel good about yourself.  But if you don’t have those things you are vulnerable.  If you forget what God says about you in Scripture, then your reputation is unreliable and can turn up or down in the wind with whatever is happening in your life.

 Who you are can zig zag back and forth, up and down, a good reputation one year, and a bad one the next. If you have a good job and buy an expensive car you know you are great, but if you lose your good job and drive a junk car then you feel like a loser.  In our competitive world you judge yourself by what others think of you.  And other people can be fickle.  If the “important” people like you and you are young and attractive you feel good about yourself.  But if you are old and disabled and your family members don’t have time for you then you feel like you aren’t worth much.

During this past year, two intelligent young men in our community have tragically committed suicide.  I attended one of the funerals and saw the tears running down the face of the wife and the look of stunned grief in the eyes of the deceased man’s children.  This desperate man had lost a job and couldn’t pay his bills. One relative mentioned that before he took his life he told someone that he felt his family would be better off without him. And the other young man uttered these last desperate words to his wife before hanging himself: “I never do anything right.”

Two distraught young men who just recently took their own lives perhaps because they may have judged themselves by worldly standards and believed that they did not measure up.  Their families would be better off without them they thought!  Anyway they never do anything right!  We all have moments of depression occasionally. Moments when a dark voice whispers in our ear that we never do anything right.  That no one needs us and our lives aren’t worth much.  We must turn our backs on those dark voices and listen to God’s Voice. 

We are fighting a spiritual battle in this world and we need to keep our guard up. Fight the good fight. Never give in. The sword we fight with is the Bible, the Word of God, and the shield we use for protection is Faith. (Ephesians 6:16-17)  We must stand on (believe) the Word of God and have faith to believe who God says we really are in Christ.  We don’t look at our faults but we look at Jesus Christ.  We are God’s beloved.  Destined for glory. Our citizenship is in heaven. We need to feel those words in our gut – in our hearts!  Look Gods’ powerful everlasting love for us dead in the eye and receive it!  Receive it and never let it go!

Many of the thoughts in this blog were taken from the sermon of Reverend Casey Orr that was given on July 12, 2015 at the First Methodist Church of Fort Worth.       

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