ACKNOWLEDGING THE BLESSINGS OF GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
14 JULY 1991
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Timothy 4:12
Preparation Verse: (1 Timothy 4:12)
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
As I was reading over several passages of Scripture in preparation for this morning's sermon, I began to think about our acknowledgment of the blessings of God.
And as I pondered over whether or not we really acknowledge all of God's blessings, the question hit me: "Do we recognize all of God's blessings, that we could praise Him for them?"
I had to admit that we probably don't recognize most of them, unless we precondition ourselves.
Paul's letter to the Ephesians begins with the emphasis on being able to recognize what God has done and is doing for us.
Let's begin by looking at the first 14 verses of this letter.
1. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:
2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Did you hear the way that Paul acknowledges his own blessing from God?
He acknowledges who he is by the will of God, and not by his own will.
What we do of our own will may or may not be in the will of God; and thus, our successes may not be a blessing from God. In fact, our loss could actually be a blessing.
So what Paul is saying is that he is an apostle of God by the will of God, and not of his own will.
For what purpose?
So that he can write this letter with authority.
What about us?
Who are we, by the will of God, and what are our blessings, if in fact we are being blessed?
The reason I say this is because of the way in which Paul addresses his letter.
He is writing to the blessed ones only: those who have been born again, the saints, those who are faithful in Christ Jesus.
And it is to these believers that Paul extends God's blessings of grace and peace.
This doesn't mean that his words are not for the non-believer, too, for they could indeed lead them to seek these blessings and their salvation, but only that he is not addressing the non-believers in his letter.
Then Paul does something else. He blesses God for what He has done.
Note verse 3-4a.
3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4a. just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.
Paul blesses God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we hear this we must remember that Jesus is not our Lord unless we submit our will to Him.
Until we believe in Jesus and are born again, we are not adopted as joint heirs with Jesus by God the Father.
And if we are not adopted, then He cannot be our Father.
In that case, the blessing would have no meaning.
There is more in this blessing of Paul's.
He acknowledges that Jesus has blessed those of us who are born again with every spiritual blessing; not some, but every spiritual blessing.
It's not the physical we are talking about, but the spiritual.
And those blessings are not necessarily here on earth, but in the heavenly places in Christ, because the earth is still corrupted.
And, we are here on earth.
How can we recognize and acknowledge these heavenly blessings?
On our own, we can't; but with our rebirth comes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and, by His witness, we gain our heavenly vision.
It's like the song says, "You can't have one without the other." That's just the way it is.
For as we saw in the first part of verse 4, this was God's original intent even before He set the foundations of the world: that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
But we failed God and all His good intentions for us, because we lost sight of the true blessing.
And the vast majority of people continue to fail God by participating in the corruption that causes so much pain and suffering and destruction to our fellow human beings, to the other animals, and to the environment we all live in.
We have failed God, because we don't do everything in our power to live in His creation and heavenly intent, where there is no pain, or suffering, or death.
Yes, we failed God; but in His love, He didn't fail us. Note verses 4b-6:
4b. In love
5. He predestined us to adoption as sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
6. to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Without Jesus Christ there are no real blessings, for they are bestowed upon us only in the Beloved One, Jesus Christ.
Our blessings are only by, in, and through Jesus Christ; for that has been the kind intention of God our Father ever since the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This is what we are to recognize.
This is what we are to acknowledge.
This is what we are to praise and bless the Father for.
We so easily forget what Jesus did for us, as Paul reminds us, beginning at verse 7:
7. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,
8. which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight
9. He made known to us the mysteries of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
10a-c. with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth.
Note specifically that in verses 8-9, we are told that in wisdom and insight the mysteries of God's will are made known to us when we are redeemed, when we are forgiven, and when we are born again.
This means that most so-called believers must knowingly be fighting against this knowledge and wisdom, if they turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering and destruction in this world, and even worse if they participate in it.
If we truly believe, then we should be doing everything in our power to bring God's peace, mercy, and lovingkindness to every other human and other animal in the world around us.
Let's go on...
When we seem tongue-tied, and can't think of anything to be thankful for, or to praise God about, remember this –
That in Christ, we have forgiveness of our sins and have been redeemed from a most certain death in hell.
So when things are so wrong that we don't know what to do about them, we can still be thankful that such things are limited to this earth; and that when we come into all of the Lord's glory in heaven, all such things will be gone.
We allow ourselves (and I'm putting the emphasis on the word allow) to become earthbound in our hearts and minds.
We forget about our heavenly abode.
We forget about the heavenly mysteries that the Lord has made known to us.
And we forget that Jesus is indeed the answer if we put our faith and trust in Him.
When Jesus is present, all things in our lives take on new meaning.
And when we allow Him to enter into our acknowledged presence, we also will remember His other blessings.
It is really that simple.
Why? Because, as we are told, God has lavished us with His love and grace, and with this come all wisdom and insight.
And with all wisdom and insight available to us, we should be able to see easily through our every problem to the original intention of God.
In this we should find comfort, and begin to praise God for all His blessings.
Yes, I forget this sometimes, just as you do; but the more we allow Christ in our presence, the less likely we are to forget.
Let's return to our Scripture verses, beginning at the end of verse 10.
10d. In Him
11. also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
12. to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
If we acknowledge the fact that we have inherited all of heaven as a gift from God, we won't worry about what we don't have here on earth.
If we, like the apostles, acknowledge that our hope is in Christ, then we, each of us, should be a living example and a praise of His glory.
This doesn't mean in words, for talk is cheap. It means in our very lives.
And there is more, listen to verses 13 and 14.
13. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,
14. who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
The very fact that we have the Holy Spirit with us is proof of our salvation.
When we continue to try to live in the world, we may not like what the Holy Spirit tells us, or the way the Lord tries to convict us, in order that we would repent and return to Him.
Sometimes we don't want to recognize God's blessing, for that reminds us of our obligation to live as Christians.
But when we quit fighting with God, and give in to His will, we are filled with that peace that surpasses all understanding.
And in that peace we just naturally acknowledge God's blessings and praise Him.
In our praise of Him we become stronger and stronger.
And in this strength we are able to become the kind and gentle peacemaking children of God.
The things of this world, that we thought were so important, don't seem all that important anymore; for now we can see into heaven and the things that are really important.
And we know, without a doubt, that the hand of the Lord has touched us.
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