December 14, 2019

A New Year’s Message

Happy New Year.

This post is from guest blogger Chaplain Mike.

We encourage you to read the update posted below from iMonk and to join us all in praying for God’s ongoing comfort and help for Michael and his family in this time of need. May this post give assurance to them and to all who are facing serious challenges as they enter 2010.

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… (Eph 1:3)

On the calendar, today is the beginning of a new year and a new decade. I can’t think of a better text of Scripture upon which to meditate than this one from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

In Eph. 1:3, Paul tells us that every person who is in Christ is immeasurably rich, a multi-billionaire when it comes to “spiritual blessings” — God’s favor and gifts. We lack nothing. Nothing. You can’t get any more from God than you have right now in Christ. He has given you the keys to the whole store.

These blessings are a pure gift from God. The text says God has blessed us. Period. It was his idea, his initiative, his undertaking. He planned it and performed it on our behalf. He came to us and laid this gift on our doorstep. God’s favor and gifts are entirely of grace.

These blessings are ours in Christ. It is in union with Jesus the Messiah that we come to own these blessings. In salvation, we have been personally united to him, a connection that has been established by God’s grace working through faith (2:8-10). Since we belong to Christ and are citizens of his realm, all the benefits thereof accrue to us. And this is true of everyone who is united to Christ, no matter how weak or immature their faith.

These blessings are operative in “the heavenly places’. This phrase is one way Paul described “the kingdom of God,” the realm where God rules, invisible to us now but nevertheless real and present. The heavenly places are not “way out there,” far away. Nor is this domain reserved only for the future. In Christ, God invaded this world and right now, through the Spirit, his kingdom is nearer to us than ever before. There is much more to life than meets the eye: the spiritual realm where Christ reigns is as real as the ground beneath our feet.

Now as we go into this new year, those who hold pietistic views or promote a prosperity gospel will try to tell us that the challenge for 2010 is that we must do something for our lives to be more blessed. It’s time to step up our game as Christians so that God can work. They will challenge us to pray more, read our Bibles more, serve more in order to have a barn heaping full of God’s blessings. They will goad us to be more spiritually disciplined so that God can transform our lives. They will encourage us to plant seeds of faith in order to bring forth a harvest of blessings. They will try to sell us their books containing the secrets or principles that will lead the skilled practitioner to a place of blessing.

In their view, “faith” is the key. But it is faith as a technique, a tool, a key that opens the way for God to work. It’s spiritual technology. To them, it’s also what we display to show God we’re serious. Then he will act. Exercise faith (in whatever specific form being promoted), and God will be impressed and give us the blessing.

They have it exactly backwards. More accurately, God has blessed us, therefore we believe.

The true and living God does not wait for the likes of you and me to act. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has already blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. And as we face 2010, we can be sure that he has already moved ahead of us into this new year. He knows everything that is coming and he has already given us every resource we need in Christ to face what is coming. We need not ask God for more. We need only have him and his immeasurable wealth. Through the simple means of Word and sacrament which he himself ordained for us, he is with us each day and communicates to us the blessings we need from his inexhaustible storehouse.

In response to God’s incalculable blessings in Christ, we face this New Year with this as our bold confession:

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us — who was raised to life for us! — is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing — nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable — absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8:31-39, MSG)

Comments

  1. What a great point! “They have it exactly backwards… God has blessed us, therefore we believe.” Here in Brazil where prosperity preaching is so atractive to the masses, faith is a currency that most evangelicals use to “buy” stuff from God, a sort of spiritual Monopoly money… little faith $10 lots of faith $1,000.

    You have a fun site, Steve Brown turned me on to it. Tim R.

  2. “God has blessed us, therefore we believe…The true and living God does not wait for the likes of you and me to act. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has already blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” – Chaplain Mike.

    I like your perspective. It reminds me of the following from Luther:

    “The love of God does not first discover but creates what is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through attraction to what pleases it” – Martin Luther, thesis no. 28 from the “Heidelberg Disputation”.

    The notion of God waiting for us to act or plant before He will do anything is a pagan vision of god, pattern after the character of man. God creates rather than consumes. In our culture where everything is about stimulation and consumption, its easy to turn that upside down.

    I have quoted this prayer from Augustine several times before, but it is worth doing it again: “Grant what You command, and command what You will.” I think the coming year will be challenging if not heart-breaking. I think there is no more positive outlook to have than to believe that whatever I must accomplish or achieve, God will give me what I need to accomplish what He desires, including the faith I need to trust Him. Any resolutions based upon my best intentions, efforts, plans, strengths, faith or positivism will ultimately end in despair – just as seeking salvation through the law always does. It doesn’t matter if that law is the ten commandments or the principles of positive thinking.

    “You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone” – Thomas Merton.

    • Another quote from the Heidelberg Disputation which may be appropriate for New Year’s:

      “The law says. ‘Do this’, and it is never done. Grace says, ‘Believe this’, and everything is already done” – thesis no. 26, “Heidelberg Disputation”.

  3. Yes. Yes. Yes.

  4. Amen. In Christ, God held nothing back from us. He gave of himself fully at his coming, in his life, suffering and death. His whole life was poured out for us so that we may share in the fullness of his resurrection life. Oh, if we would only live as tho this were true – no matter what else that may be going on that can vie for our attention or affections.

  5. I frequently forget to be mindful that blessing are undeserved and am seldom thankful of them.

  6. This is great post. On one hand, I agree that we cannot manipulate God into satisfying our creature comforts. On the other hand, there is a relationship between faith based actions and God’s blessings. The relationship may be that God first gives us the faith to act, we act out of thankfulness for God and His marvelous works, and then He gives us even more blessings.

    The greatest motive for obeying God is thankfulness and love of God. However, the blessings of obedience and punishment of disobedience should not be ignored. They are lessor motives but motives none the less.

  7. Great post. The psalmist is right when he says the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…..
    In him, we have everything.

  8. Chaplain Mike,
    Thanks so much for preaching the message of God’s grace to a sinner like me.
    I cannot hear it enough.

    Amen.

  9. Great post. Ephesians 1 and Psalm 103 are among my favorites. Let us encourage each other to REST in the promises and blessings and grace and mercy and forgiveness and love and……of our God.

  10. Thank you for everything. Very useful