Something to keep in mind about God is that He is a spiritual being with all power, who also longs to give. He desires to freely bless out of His abundant goodness. Maybe you grew up in a religious home where you felt like you had to earn God’s blessings, or maybe you have just thought about God as a mythical sky fairy who will give you goodies from a heavenly vending machine as long as you are a good person. Right off the get-go we learn in the Bible that God blesses people, without people having any chance to earn it.
In the narrative that starts the Bible we learn that God created the Universe from nothing, and when the Earth was suitable, He created man from the dust of the ground and woman from the side of the man. He did this on the sixth day. Right after we read “male and female he created them” we read, “And God blessed them.”
Before they even got their first job instructions, to make babies and rule over the Earth, they were blessed by God. Before they had the chance to do good, God blessed them. More than that, the following day, God declared a national holiday of chilling out, the Sabbath, a time to be still and rest in God’s goodness. This was all in a time before evil was realized and sin broke our world. So in keeping with His character, we still see God unleashing the fury of blessing on His children today.
So what are these blessings and where do we learn about them? In Paul’s short letter to the Ephesian church he writes to remind them of their true spiritual identity and how that came to be. He then moves on to talk about how to live that identity out in the world. I am going draw our attention to the first of eight (check out the rest for yourself) blessings that open the door to all the rest: 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 – Ephesians 1:3.
Paul starts this verse by giving the credit where credit is due – basically saying, “God be blessed, receive honor and glory, because you have done all this blessing that I am about to describe to these people.” He also sets up that these blessings are spiritual ones, working themselves out in the “heavenly places.”
Now, you might think that is lame because it’s more fun to talk about material blessings, money, houses, cars and bling, but be reminded that today if it shines, tomorrow it will fade. God might hook you up with lots of material blessings in this life, but those things are not the source of our true satisfaction, because they don’t last and they will get worn out and faded. Material blessings are fleeting; spiritual blessings, however, satisfy because of their eternality, giving them an immeasurable property that toys on this Earth will never have.
We get to take part in experiencing God’s immeasurable riches in Christ. So what does it actually mean to be “in Christ?” This is a seriously rich concept that honestly makes my brain hurt a little, so I’ll describe it in a couple of ways: a tree and a marriage.
First a tree. Jesus talks about this to His disciples in John’s gospel. His actual words are: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” These words are for His disciples, His followers, His grace-built people. He says that He is like a massively awesome trunk, thick and strong, full of nourishment and life. When a person trusts in Jesus it is like they are becoming a branch on that tree, or a branch on that vine. When you look at a massive tree by the water, you are looking at it as a whole, and in the way that the branches are inseparably connected to the trunk, so are we inseparably connected to Jesus. The life support that keeps that branch alive, growing and even bearing fruit is the life supply of Jesus. True spiritual enlightenment is not getting absorbed into a mysterious universe, becoming one with it. True spiritual enlightenment is taking part in the eternal life of Jesus, a real person.
Now a marriage. God invented marriage. He took a man and a woman, and by way of their gender complementarity (plumbing) brought them together in a one-flesh relationship. And pictured in marriage is even something of a reunion, since Eve was fashioned from the flesh sample of Adam from back in Genesis 2.
When our kids look at me and Kristen, one of the ways they see us is a team, a united front. Marriage is a picture of unity in diversity, not unlike the Trinitarian nature of God. Going a little further, the Bible at times describes the relationship between Jesus and the church, the collection of grace-built people, like that of a bride and a groom. The church has been referred to as the bride of Christ. This is a metaphor, not to be taken in the weird sense that we’ll be marrying Jesus, but in the sense that as a bride and groom forge a unique oneness in marriage, so do we, as people “in Christ.”
One incredible reality that comes from being in Christ is the notion that when God looks at the tree, the branches come with it; when He looks at the groom, the bride is right there. So when God the Father looks at Jesus, He sees us, and when He looks at us, He sees Jesus. We are now a packaged deal. All of the heavenly benefits that Jesus has, we share in. All of the blessings that God the Father will ever share with God the Son, we participate in. Being intertwined with Jesus is awe-inspiring, confidence-building and identity-giving.
Many people today are having an identity crisis without even knowing it. One of the most common philosophical questions of being a human is: Who am I and where is all this going? Some deep thinkers ask: Are we one big cosmic accident in a universe among an infinite number of universes, that against all mathematical impossibilities happened to gain consciousness and self-awareness, for a fleeting burst of time that is ultimately pointless? Others of us are just thinking: Do these jeans make my butt look big? Both are questions of identity.
And we seek out our identity in all kinds of places, like the esteem and affirmation of our peers, which is why we can get easily depressed if our Facebook posts don’t get a ton of likes. Identity issues are why we want to be famous and get plastic surgeries. We find identity in our sexual orientations, or affinity to certain hobbies or causes. The problem with all of these attempts is that we are allowing other creatures, or ourselves, to define who we are. But if it’s true that we are created beings, wouldn’t it make the most sense to allow our Creator to define us? To tell us who He sees, and embrace that truth as what really defines us?
I can hardly think of a more comforting and secure place to be than in Christ. In Christ means that Jesus, the actual Jesus of history and the Bible, the one who straight-up came back from the dead, the one who was God’s agent in creation, the suffering servant and the conquering king, is inseparably united with you, and He has your back.
When a spouse cheats on you and leaves you high and dry: Jesus has your back. When your boss is trying to sabotage your work, and your coworkers think it’s your fault: Jesus has your back. When you are fearful for physical health: Jesus has your back. When your bank account hits the negative: Jesus has your back. When your child is sick and you are helpless: Jesus has your back. When you’re called to swim upstream against the currents of what is politically correct: Jesus has got your back. Even when you blow it big time and turn your back on Him, Jesus still has your back. In this Christ, we friends, are blessed.