Blessings ALL Mine
A man comes to dinner at a new friend’s house. While they eat, the new friend’s small son keeps staring at the guest. Finally, the guest says, “Why are you staring at me like that, young fellow?” The kid says, “Well, Daddy told me you were a self-made man.” “I am.” “Well, why did you make yourself like that?” Our purpose in the next few weeks is to help us find our identity and purpose in life so that we don’t make ourselves like that! – so that we are something worthwhile. And the passage we look at today can start us out. How can we find real “worth” in life?
People today are greatly concerned about identity, life purpose, self–worth, and self–acceptance. Consequently there is a plethora of books, articles, seminars, and schemes from Tony Robbins to Wayne Dyer that attempt to fulfill those longings. But because God and His Word are not considered in most such attempts, the only source for finding the truth is eliminated, and men inevitably are led back to themselves for the answers. In spite of many variations and sometimes complex formulas, the end result is to tell men they are really all right after all and that what identity, worth, and meaning they find in life they must find in and for themselves – usually by digging deeper.
We are told to think of ourselves first and are shown how to get on top by using and manipulating others, by intimidating before being intimidated. We are told how to be successful and how to be number one how to find the winner within. We are counseled to find meaning in the heritage of our family and ethnic roots, with the expectation that finding out where we came from will help explain where we are and where we are headed. But such approaches give only a psychological gloss that helps cover, but does not help remove, the underlying problem of meaning in life.
Every human effort at self–improvement or self–satisfaction is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Genuine and lasting satisfaction is never achieved. All that really happens in our self-help efforts is that our friends and acquaintances are thinking (though they are probably not unkind enough to say it out loud), “Why did you make yourself like that?” In fact, in our most introspective moments, we are probably asking ourselves the very same question.
The truth is, the only way a person can achieve a true sense of self–worth, meaning, and significance is to have a right relationship to his Creator. A person without Christ has no spiritual value, no standing before God, no purpose or meaning in the world, and certainly no long term prospect. He is like “chaff which the wind drives away” (Ps. 1:4).
A Christian, however, is a child of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. He just needs to understand the position he already has in his Savior. That is the foundational thrust of Paul’s Ephesian letter.
Verses 3-14 of Ephesians 1 are comprised of one long, rapturous, 202 word sentence as Paul became so caught up in the glory of God’s gifts to His children that he scarcely paused for breath in his dictation. Our goal in the next few weeks is to catch something of the splendor of our position in Christ as explained by Paul because it will change our lives if we do.
In this barakah or blessing of God – bestowed by Paul because of the unprecedented and unfathomable blessings bestowed by God on us – Paul describes the work of all three persons of the Trinity in positioning us individually within his body, the church. But verse 3 is introductory to the whole section and deserves its own attention today because it establishes the great worth that we have – in Christ. It is not a worth derived from our natural talents, higher education, financial status or any other earthly measure – no, it is much more real than any of those. Our true worth is established by the fabulous way that God has gifted us and that is the thrust of this passage. Let’s look at the various aspects of how we are blessed. As John Calvin said, “The lofty terms in which he [Paul] extols the grace of God toward the Ephesians, are intended to rouse their hearts to gratitude, to set them all on flame, to fill them even to overflowing with this disposition.” I pray it will do the same for us.
I. Who Gives? -- God!
Paul says, 3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
The word “blessed” is the Greek word ευλογεω from which we get our English word “eulogy”. Paul is raising a hymn of praise and commendation to God for His great goodness to us. He is to be commended because He is the one who gives all the gifts that Paul has in mind as he confronts His own blessed state.
What a reminder that God is always good, good beyond measure and always worthy of blessing. Goodness is God’s nature and He not only does good things, but He is good in a way and to a degree that no human being can be. Psalms 73 says, 1) Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. The word “truly” could legitimately be translated “only”. God is only good to Israel, never anything else. Yes, Israel had it tough at times as did Paul – but always out of the goodness of God’s loving heart. Jesus Himself said in Luke 18:19 No one is good except God alone.
Now, Paul says – It is the very God who alone is good – it is this one who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Now, don’t miss this, folks. God is the giver. He alone is the Giver. God is the giver of every spiritual blessing. And if we don’t have a relationship with him, we are bankrupt. And if we have a relationship with Him, but never pay it any mind, we are equally bankrupt. There is no blessing. The most that we can ever hope for is whatever we can amass by way of fortune, honor, position, and prestige in this life – all of which we will leave the instant that death beckons, because there is no permanent spiritual blessing without Him.
Which means what? Well, it means if we are truly going to live forever that we can never find our true worth outside of Him. We will never find our true purpose outside of Him. We will never find eternal satisfaction and reward outside of Him. Our life can never be more than an empty shell of what it was meant to be outside of him, for at our best, even at our very human best, we will leave little behind of lasting value. He is the great giver of blessing – and if you do not have Him, you cannot be blessed. You simply cannot be what you were meant to be.
Let me illustrate. We were meant for great things. But we have been born into a world system that is anti-God and with a sin nature. We are like a duckling that hatches in the wrong place. When a duckling hatches from its egg it does something called “imprinting.” To “imprint” means that the duckling attaches itself to the first thing it sees after it hatches, thinking that it is that thing. This usually works in the duck’s favor, since when it hatches the first thing it normally sees is mama duck. But this phenomenon backfires occasionally. I read once about a duckling that was hatched under the watchful eye of a motherly collie. The baby duck took one look at the collie and decided that the dog was its mother. It followed the collie around, ran to it for protection, and slept with it at night. It spent the hot part of the day under the front porch with the collie. When a car pulled into the driveway, along with the dog, the duck would run out from under the front porch quacking viciously, trying to peck the tires. That duck was meant to fly – to soar – it was meant for great things, but it was doomed to its porch-sitting, tire-pecking life unless it came under the influence of a duck.
And just so, we can never find our full potential until we find it in the blessed God who made us. He’s the great and good giver if only we will receive.
II. Who Gets? -- Believers
Now, if God is the one who gives, the next logical question is, Who gets? It’s not everybody! Who gets this great package of spiritual blessings? The answer in verse 3 is that it is “us” – some group of “us” are the recipients of this gift that has Paul so overjoyed. To find out who “us” is, we have to go back to verses 1 and 2 where it is clear that the “us” is Paul and the saints and faithful in Christ. We’ve previously identified those as believers. These are the ones who are the recipients of God’s great blessings – and, of course, by extension, those of us who are 21st century believers are also in that group.
Since we’ve studied this group, I don’t want to belabor the point except to remind us that there is nothing that really sets us apart except – except the grace of God. We’re still sinners just like before, we still look like those that we are around every day. But as those who have believed in Christ and accepted Him as Savior and Lord, we are suddenly and surely in the family of God and that makes all the difference.
Ferenc Molnar (1878-1952) was a Hungarian dramatist and novelist who gained international success with some of his plays in the first half of the 20th century. While living in a motel in Vienna during the 1920s, a large contingent of his relatives cam to see him in hopes of sharing some of the fruits of his success. They were prepared for a hostile reception, but to their surprise, Molnar greeted them kindly, even insisting that they all sit for a group portrait to mark the occasion. The print ready, Molnar presented it to the hotel doorman. “And whenever you see any of the persons in the picture trying to get into the hotel, don’t let them in.”
Listen – that is exactly what the good God who is now our Father will never do. Never. Once you become part of that family, you are in for good and His blessings are yours! Now the question of whether or not you take advantage is another question, but if you are a follower of Christ this morning, you have already been showered with unbelievable blessings – a package of gifts in Him that stagger the imagination. You have a position that is unmatched in this world. [pause]j We are the us, Beloved. We are the us. And that will never, ever, ever change.
III. What is Given? -- Every Spiritual Blessing
We come now to the meat of this passage. We’ve looked at Who Gives? We’ve looked at Who Gets? Now the question is, What is given? Look again. 3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, The answer should send chills down your spine. It really is almost too wonderful for words. What is given? Every spiritual blessing. Not ¼ now and ¾ later. Not 50/50. Not even ¾ now and ¼ later, but every! Can you even begin to fathom that? Can you even begin to understand that? The old songwriter talked about showers of blessing. Man, this is a deluge.
Let’s note a couple of things here. First, please note that this is an accomplished fact. The word “has blessed” in Greek as in English indicates that it’s already done. Nothing to wait for. Nothing to anticipate here. It’s a done deal.
Second, note that it is every spiritual blessing. There is a slight difference among commentators around what that term means. It could mean spiritual as opposed to earthly, tangible. It would thus indicate all those blessings that we have in Christ that are of a spiritual nature such as salvation, peace of mind, answers to prayer and so on. Or it could mean blessings which are provided by the Holy Spirit. So it would envision every activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Given that the word spiritual is never used apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, I think that the latter is in view, but the fact is no spiritual work is done apart from the Holy Spirit, so it is really a moot point.
The real emphasis of the passage is on the word “every”. Now in the verses which follow, Paul will spell out certain unbelievable spiritual benefits that we have in Christ, but his list is not intended to be all-inclusive. Here the emphasis is on the fact that every single benefit we could ever hope for is already ours.
Just think of the implications of this truth. Many Christians continually ask God for what He has already given. They pray for Him to give them more love, although they should know that “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). They pray for peace, although Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). They pray for happiness and joy, although Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). They ask God for strength, although His Word tells them that they “can do all things through Him who strengthens” them (Phil. 4:13). God’s “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). It is not that God will give us but that He has already given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” He has blessed us already with every spiritual blessing. We are complete “in Him” (Col. 2:10).”
There are those who would tell us that salvation is one thing, but that there is a second work of grace that every believer should experience. Inevitably, this second blessing as it is usually called is associated with the gift of tongues. But that whole concept is turned on its head by this passage. I love what J. Vernon McGee says: “Someone asks have you had the second blessing. Second blessing! I’m working way up in the hundreds – in fact, up in the thousands. I’ve not only had a second blessing; I’ve had a thousand blessings” Beloved, we not only have them. We have them NOW!
So – you ask, why am I not experiencing all these spiritual blessings? To answer that, let me tell you about Jimmy Jones. Jimmy Jones died and went to heaven. As happens in stories like this, St. Peter met him at the Pearly Gates and led him on a magnificent tour of paradise—beautiful gardens, wonderful streams of flowing water, rainbows, choirs of angels, golden streets, and tall mansions. It was filled with everything he had dreamed it would be. They turn a corner and at the end of the street stood a huge building unlike any other they had seen. No windows; a single large door. Jones asked what it was. St. Peter told him, “I don’t think you really want to know.” Jones persisted so St. Peter walked him through the door. Inside were shelves from floor to ceiling; each filled with large white boxes. Each box was neatly wrapped and finished with a bright red ribbon and a nametag. Seeing the nametags, Jones asked if there was a box with his name on it. “Indeed,” St. Peter said, “I am sure there is.” They searched until they found the J section and finally, they located a box with Jimmy’s name and address. Jones pulled the box down and very nervously opened to see what was inside. When he lifted back the lid and glanced inside, Jones first let out a chuckle of recognition and then upon closer examination a mournful sigh of resignation. St. Peter had heard the same sound many times from those who entered this building. Inside the white box sat all of the blessings that God had given to Jones while he was on earth but that had gone unused. Unused, unwanted, unappreciated, unexplored. Infinitely available – but untouched. Tragedy.
Don’t you see, folks. Every blessing we could ever hope for is ours. It is just up to us to appropriate them by faith. Nothing is missing. Nothing! It is only our stubborn will and our wasted time following the imprint that the world has left on us that keeps us from experiencing more joy and peace and happiness than we could ever think possible. But be assured. There is no lack in the gift, but you’ll not experience it if you are running around trying to get what the world offers. Making ourselves in the world’s mold.
IV. Where is it From? -- Heavenlies
Now the next thing we need to notice is from whence these gifts and blessings emanate. 3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, The words “heavenly places” literally read in the heavenlies in the original language. This speaks of the place where God particularly dwells, and the word emphasizes a whole new aspect of our salvation. The blessings that God bestows on us literally have their origin in the heaven.
Have any of you ladies ever received a gift that is wrapped in a very particular color of blue – almost sky blue, but not quite – and with a white ribbon around it. If so, you were no doubt smitten before you even opened the package, right? Because you knew it either came from Tiffany’s or someone was playing a horrible joke!
Well, on a much grander scale, here are the blessings, the gifts, the benefits we have in Christ when we become followers of Jesus Christ – all wrapped to indicate that they come from heaven itself. I mean, you talk about blessing. Don’t you ever let anyone tell you that God does not invade human history. He is doing it all the time; and there is treasure upon treasure for all of us that is direct from heaven, coming often in the most unusual ways. Wow!
You see, this is really just part of an even bigger truth. In Christ, we have a whole new citizenship – one that all too often we don’t take advantage of. Paul says it very simply in Philippians 3:20 20) But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, We are proud to be citizens of the US and well we should be. We should be even prouder to be citizens of heaven with all the rights and privileges that attach thereto.
In I Peter, chapter 1, Peter writes to the church and he begins with these words, “Peter, an apostle of Christ Jesus, to those who are elect exiles (or as the NASB says it, to those who reside as aliens) of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia and so on. In chapter 2 he says, beginning in verse 9, “but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the Excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” We are elect exiles. We’re here. We have an address. And we have a phone number. We wear certain clothes and speak a certain language. And we come out of a certain culture in which certain things make sense and other things don’t make sense, but all of that is passing. We are elect exiles. I think the temptation for evangelicals in America is to believe something else and to feel ourselves very much at home right here in this old world. Our prosperity is almost like a curse because it leads to comfort and apathy.
Listen, one day I want to show you this from Scripture, but just let me assure you this morning. Heaven is closer than you think. And the wonderful blessings that God has bestowed on us that He desire us to use and to treasure are straight from heaven itself. It can’t get any better than that, so what are we waiting for?
V. How is it Possible? -- In Christ
The answer to the question, how is this all possible is very simple and yet so profound. Look again at verse 3: 3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, See the little phrase “in Christ” there? That is the answer. It is a most wonderful answer and a most wonderful phrase.
The words “in Christ” or their equivalent (in Him, in Christ Jesus, etc.) are used 15 times in these 14 verses. Without question they are the key to the whole passage, to the whole book of Ephesians, and in many ways to the whole Bible. One writer has said that “in Christ” is the keynote to the whole book. He goes on to say, “It is like the trunk of a mighty oak from which every branch emerges.” What does it mean that the Father has blessed us in Christ? Very simply it means that without Christ and His death and resurrection, nothing is possible.
Notice the parade of benefits that we have in Christ.
Verse 2 believers are faithful (or as we noted, believers) in Christ Verse 3 we are blessed in Christ
Verse 4 we are chosen in Him
Verse 4 we are holy and blameless in Him
Verse 5 we are predestined to adoption through Jesus Christ
Verse 6 we are blessed in the Beloved
Verse 7 we have redemption in Him
Verse 9 he has revealed his purpose in Christ
Verse 10 all things will be united in Him
Verse 11 we have an inheritance in Him
Verse 13 we heard the word of truth in Him
I mean, hit me one more time to see if I get it, right? Do you see how impossible it is to somehow have God without have Christ? Without Christ, nothing is possible – nothing, nada, zip. The Father could have loved us infinitely as He does, and yet He could have done nothing to secure our salvation and our future without Christ. Christ in His redeeming work is the lynchpin for everything.
As taught in Romans 5, we were by birth “in Adam” – inheritors of a sin nature and hopelessly lost with neither the ability nor the will to do right. But when we come to Christ by faith, we have moved kingdoms, Beloved. We wave good-by to the old family and become part of a new family.
Perhaps the most vivid description of what it means to be “in Christ” comes in Romans 6: 5) For if we have been united with him in a death like his (death to self, you see), we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6) We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7) For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8) Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9) We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10) For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11) So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
To be “in Christ” is to be inextricably linked to him by faith. It is to be identified with His death and to be a partaker in His life. It is to be nothing short of absolutely and totally committed to Him. That costs something, Beloved. But oh, the privileges that come. We are then joint heirs with Him. We’re in a new family and listen to this from Romans 8 16) The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17) and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
What does it mean to be in Christ? Listen to this description of earthly benefits taken from a book called It’s All About Him. The lady author says, “Today tour buses pass the perimeter of our gated estate; people hang out the windows and take pictures of our mansion. Private planes, boats, and dozens of cars stand ready to take me wherever I want to go, anywhere in the world. Three lavish vacation homes are staffed and available to enjoy at any time. Employees cook, clean, shop and run errands for me. I’ve been photographed in shimmering designer gowns on more red carpets than I can remember. I’ve spent time with actors, musicians, celebrities, and presidents. Reporters have interviewed me, eager to portray my private life for newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. Strangers often ask if they can have my autograph, or if they can have their pictures taken with me. Why have I received all these benefits? It’s certainly not because of me or anything I’ve done. It’s because I’m married to a country music superstar named Alan Jackson.” [pause] And that’s just what it means from a spiritual perspective to be “in Christ” only in a sense so much greater.
We have an unbreakable link to Him. Everything – everything that Christ has, we have also. Christ’s riches are our riches, His resources are our resources, His righteousness is our righteousness, and His power is our power. His position is our position: where He is, we are. His privilege is our privilege: what He is we are. His possession is our possession: what He has, we have. His practice is our practice: what He does, we do.” Of all the terms that the Bible uses to describe salvation – atonement, justification, sanctification, propitiation, reconciliation – none is more simple and yet more comprehensive or precious than “in Christ.” To be “in Christ” is to have everything.
German Philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher did much to shape the progress of modern thought, but he did so at the expense of denying the authority of Scripture and reducing God to a feeling. He once wrote: “Similarly belief in God, and in personal immortality, are not necessarily a part of religion; one can conceive of a religion without God, and it would be pure contemplation of the universe; the desire for personal immortality seems rather to show a lack of religion, since religion assumes a desire to lose oneself in the infinite, rather than to preserve one's own finite self.” Is it any wonder, then, that one day as an old man he was sitting alone on a bench in a city park. A policeman thinking that he was a vagrant came over and shook him and asked, “Who are you?" Schleiermacher sadly replied, "I wish I knew." Beloved, don’t come to the end of life and say, “I wish I knew.” “Why did I make myself this way?”
Who are you becoming this morning? Are your trying to “make yourself”? Or are you “in Christ” being remade by Him. Then you must live like the child of a king that you are. Understand your identity “in Him”. Embrace your identity “in Him.” Relish your identity “in Him.” Don’t leave His blessings unopened. Live like the blessed person that you are.