Blessed Be God

November 5, 2023

Topic: Blessings

Book: Ephesians

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I want to begin this morning by asking you to reflect on three questions: what do you want to get out of life, what do you want to get out of being in church today, and what do you want from God? In a way, these are all the same question, but I want you to try to answer them separately for a moment. What do you want to get out of life, what do you want to get out of church, and what do you want from God?

In a survey taken in 2016, people were asked the question:

If you could say in one word what you want more of in life, what would that be?

People said they wanted things like money, freedom, and peace, but the number one desire was for happiness. Most people stated that they desired more than anything to be happy, but also admitted that they didn’t know how to get more happiness in their lives.

A very natural desire for all of us as we come to church is the desire to be blessed by God, to be made happy. We desire His favor. We desire to receive out of the abundance of His goodness. We desire for God to rescue us from the mess we’ve made and forgive us, sometimes even while we continue to do the things that led to us getting ourselves into our mess. In short, we desire what we might get from God.

And even when we come to God this way, it’s amazing that God is gracious. We don’t always receive what we’re looking for, because we ask with wrong motives, but it’s amazing that God doesn’t immediately smite us because we come selfishly either.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never once seen someone struck by lightning when they entered the church building. You’d think with all the times people have wondered if God would strike them with lightning if they were to come to church, you’d think that it would at least happen once in a while, but I’ve never heard of it happening. And did you know that 100% of the people who go to church are sinners! That tells me that God’s not eager to annihilate sinners!

In fact, God invites sinners to receive a blessing. He invites us to receive not just the stuff that He can give us, but to receive Himself as our God and Father as we receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord.

Ephesians 1:3

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

Father, we praise You for who You are, and how You’ve blessed us beyond measure. Thank You for Your abundant goodness to us. Thank You for Jesus. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

So we started looking at this letter to the Ephesians last week, and our first few sermons through this book will be talking about all the blessings that we have in Christ. Our verse today, actually, begins what is probably the longest sentence in the Bible. I say probably only because the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament looked something like this:

They were written in all capital letters, with no spaces between the words, and no punctuation. So it can be difficult to determine when sentences begin and end, and yet usually it’s pretty clear from the prepositions and sentence structure. So most likely, Ephesians 1:3 begins the longest sentence in the Bible, which goes all the way through verse 14, and talks about how we are incredibly blessed in Jesus!

Talking about this passage, William Barclay wrote in his Daily Study Bible:

It is so long and complicated because it represents not so much a reasoned statement as a lyrical song of praise. Paul’s mind goes on and on, not because he is thinking in logical stages, but because gift after gift and wonder after wonder from God pass before his eyes. -William Barclay, Daily Study Bible

So not only is this passage the longest sentence in the Bible, it’s also one of the most theologically packed passages, as it deals with who we are in Christ and how good God has been to us. In fact, that’s exactly how the passage begins as well. It says at the beginning of verse 3:

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3a)

That word “blessed” comes from the Greek word ???????????, which means “praised” or “adorable.”

God is worthy to be praised and adored. And this is absolutely foundational to understanding why God would bless us. God blesses us out of the abundance of His blessedness! God is good to us because God Himself is good!

We sometimes think we need to live a certain way in order for God to bless us, and it’s true that there are certain natural blessings and natural consequences for how we live. If you play in the middle of the road, you’re more likely to get hit by a car. If you play the lottery, you’re far more likely to lose money than win it. And on the flip side, if you make wise choices such as working hard, being generous toward others, and making healthy decisions, you’re far more likely to experience the blessings associated with those decisions.

But God’s goodness goes far beyond any kind of reaction to our behaviors. Psalm 145:9 says:

The LORD is good to everyone; his compassion rests on all he has made. (Psalm 145:9)

And Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that:

[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45b)

And if we had to earn God’s favor, the Bible is clear that we could not. We’ve all sinned! But God, out of the richness of His mercy, loves us, forgives us, and blesses us when we most certainly don’t deserve it.

God’s goodness toward us is seen all around us in a multitude of ways, more ways than we can count. We see His goodness in the sunrise, and in the fresh air, and in a newborn baby. We see it through smiles and laughs and kind deeds. And we could go on to name all the good things we experience in life today as expressions of God’s goodness because we read in James 1:17 that:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

So absolutely praise God, adore Him for all of His good gifts. Praise Him for life, and food, and work. Praise Him for your family and friends. Praise God for every good thing, because every good thing comes from God.

But also know that the greatest blessing that we have from God is God’s Son. It says:

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3a)

It should blow our minds that God allows us to call Him our Father. The God who creates all things allows us to know Him and relate to Him in a personal way: He’s our Father.

Many people say that it’s hard for them to relate to God as their Father because they didn’t have a great relationship with their own Father. And I can definitely see how that would be difficult. But to all of us, we shouldn’t equate the goodness of our earthly father to that of our heavenly father. No matter how good our earthly father was, God is infinitely better. And He invites us to know Him and rest in His love for us.

But we should note that that’s only possible because God was and is first the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is the Christ. Even though the Old Testament calls God the Father a couple times, it wasn’t until Jesus came that we understood that God truly invites us to relate to Him in that way, as Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”

And Jesus alone could teach us to pray that way because Jesus Himself has a special relationship with God the Father. Jesus is the Son of God, and is Himself God in the flesh.

And yet, through Jesus, we also have a relationship with God the Father. When we receive Jesus as our Lord, because we recognize Him as the Christ, the Messiah, sent to save us from our sins, we have all our sins forgiven by the grace of our Father in heaven, and we are called children of God, because we are.

Jesus is our greatest blessing. In fact, all of the other blessings that we’re going to read about in this long sentence are through Christ. Notice what it says at the end of our verse today. Look at verse 3 again:

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. We might feel, sometimes, that we’re lacking certain physical blessings. And that’s true. God doesn’t give us every physical thing we may want. But we do have every spiritual blessing we could ever desire.

But you may be thinking, “I don’t feel very blessed spiritually. I wish I had more faith. I wish I had more strength. I wish I had more peace.” And that may be true in our experience. Because notice where our spiritual blessings are. It says in verse 3, again, that we have every spiritual blessing in the heavens.

Some of our spiritual blessings won’t be fully realized until we join with Christ in the heavens, whether that be Paradise when we first leave this earth, or the new heaven and earth combo in eternity future. But either way, even as we wait for the blessings, we can know that all of those blessings are already ours. God has already given us a perfect faith, perfect strength, perfect peace and so on. And even as we wait for those blessings with patience, we can walk today knowing that they are ours. So we can practice walking in that kind of faith. We can practice walking with that kind of strength, and peace, and hope even today, knowing that they are ours forever in the heavens.

Finally, notice that all of the blessings we have are in Christ. This is going to be a recurring theme throughout this passage. All of our blessings are in Christ, for at least two reasons.

First, Jesus Himself is the greatest blessing, as we’ve already seen.

And second, Jesus secured and secures all of these blessings through what He did for us on the cross. We did not deserve any blessings from God by nature. We all sinned against God, and deserve His wrath. We did not deserve heaven, but hell. But Jesus, the Son of God, died as our substitute, taking the punishment we deserved upon Himself, so that we can receive God’s favor and blessings forever in eternity in Christ.

And it’s this thought that leads Paul to write this longest sentence in the Bible, praising God on and on as he thinks about all the blessings we have in Jesus.

It’s like if I were to just start talking about all the reasons why I love my wife.

Abby is beautiful, adorable, kind, and compassionate, and I see these things in the way that she cares for me and our kids, and in the way that she works hard to care for us and others because she’s generous with others, and has challenged me and all of us in many ways to be generous with others, such as in organizing the youth to make bags for homeless people, and she’s intelligent, in some ways almost as intelligent as me, and since I just said that, probably much more intelligent than me, and she has a great sense of humor, so that she just laughed at my attempt at humor, or at least rolled her eyes at it, and she is a great example of the godly women found in Proverbs 31, having a noble character more precious than jewels, working with her hands, extending her hands to the needy, speaking wisdom, watching over the activities of our household while I just sit like a bum at the city gates, such that all her works praise her, and so that our children rise up and call her blessed, and so that it can be said of her, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised.”

And if I can go on and on about my wife like that, then certainly we can praise God for all His goodness toward us. His steadfast love endures forever! His mercy never comes to an end! If we just take a few moments to consider how good God is, we can’t help but praise Him! That’s what this passage is all about. God has been incredibly good to us in Christ, and our hearts ought to explode in worship as we think about His grace.

I’m in a Facebook group of Southern Baptist pastors, and one day a while back one pastor asked this question:

“Does anyone else drink coffee when preaching?” Another pastor commented, “I’ve seen preachers who do and it is a little distracting to me.” And I immediately thought, “Wow, you must get distracted WAY too easily!”

It’s up to each one of us to direct our hearts and minds to worship God, and if someone drinking coffee distracts you from doing that, I can’t even imagine how distracted you must get when someone actually sins in your presence. And even then, it’s our responsibility and privilege to worship God, no matter what anyone around us is doing.

In one church I was in, I overheard someone who was distracted during worship by how the worship leader was dressed because he wasn’t wearing a suit. If that’s you, close your eyes and worship! Or, just grow up in your faith so those kinds of things don’t distract you, and so that your heart is so in awe of God that you worship Him no matter who you’re with, what they’re doing, or what they’re wearing!

You see, God is good! And He’s been incredibly good to us in Jesus! So our hearts ought to overflow in worship to God!

Is that the desire of your heart? Maybe you don’t feel like you always have the right words to express how you’re feeling in prayer or worship, but that’s okay. God’s not looking for you to have all the correct words. God just wants your heart. He wants you to rest and rejoice in Jesus, your Savior.

Paraphrasing a parable that Jesus told, it would be like two men who went to church to pray: a super religious man and a crook. The super religious man prays loudly, “God, I’ve kept myself from sin according to Your commands! I’ve been faithful to You! I’m not greedy, I always seek to do what’s right, and I’m definitely not like that crook over there, because I never cheat anyone of anything. So thank You for assuring Me of Your love for me because of my obedience to You.” You see, he did so many right things, but his heart was in the wrong place, being more interested in boasting in himself. But then the crook silently prays, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” God doesn’t care about how eloquent our prayers are, or if we say all the right words. God desires that we simply receive His grace.

I recently heard on a podcast that in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said something like this:

I’d rather be the prostitute in the back row, asking God for repentance, than the prig on row four, judging her. -C.S. Lewis (paraphrased)

Now, they got the quote a little wrong, because he actually went on to say it’s better to be neither a prig nor a prostitute, but they got the essence right. Essentially, C.S. Lewis was highlighting the fact that God cares less about how righteous we make ourselves, and far more about how we humbly come to Him, trusting in Jesus.

When you come to believe in Jesus as your Savior, you find that you’re so insanely blessed in Him. It doesn’t matter anymore what others think about you, or even what you think of yourself. Paul said that he considered it such a small thing to be judged by anyone, and he didn’t even judge himself, because he knew that he was completely forgiven by God.

In a segment called “Deep Thoughts” on Saturday Night Live, Jack Handey said:

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them, and you have their shoes. -Jack Handey, SNL

But once you realize how much you’ve been forgiven by Jesus, criticizing others and being criticized by others just seems like such a small thing. When you find that you have God’s approval, not because you earned it, but because Jesus earned it for you through dying on the cross and rising again, then you find that you no longer need the approval of any others. You find that God is good, and He’s been so good to you, even though you’ve sinned against Him.

This is a picture of Bethel Baptist Church in Clayton Country, Georgia. On a Sunday evening in August of this year, this church’s steeple was struck by lightning at 6 pm, and the entire church burnt to the ground.

And you know what? Not a single sinner was in the church at the time, because it happened about an hour after everyone left! In fact, usually the pastor’s son would have been there uploading video from the services that day, but even he had gone home because the internet wasn’t working. So God had spared all of the sinners from being struck by lightning, including the pastor’s son!

Despite the common thought, God is not like Zeus from Greek mythology, eager to launch lightning bolts at anyone who makes him angry. No! The real God, our God, is eager to show sinners like us grace.

So even if you don’t feel very blessed, because life is hard, even then, you can know that God loves you, and invites you to know Him and rest in His grace, so that you see that God Himself in Christ is the greatest blessing.

Jesus died and rose again to forgive you, so that you can know Him and rest in His love for you, and experience the blessing of His goodness toward sinners.