读经：诗109:21-31 弗1:1-23 赛51:17-54:17
Fourteen Blessings of Being in Christ
‘“I’m a failure.”
“I am no use to God; I can’t think why He bothers with me.”
“He wouldn’t want to answer my prayers.”
“I seem to come back to Him asking forgiveness for the same thing over and over again.”’
These quotations come from Colin Urquhart’s book, In Christ Jesus, which sets out to show us how we can be free from such ‘defeat’. When I first read this book, I had never before realised how significant that little word ‘in’ is in the New Testament. Understanding that, as Christians, we are ‘in’ Christ Jesus revolutionises how we see ourselves, and our identity.
Write your name on a piece of paper. Take hold of your Bible to represent Christ. Place the paper in the book and close it. You are in Christ. Where the book goes you go. Where the paper goes he goes. You are not part of the book, but you are now identified totally with the book.
Paul uses this expression, ‘in Christ Jesus’, over and over again. God has taken hold of you and placed you in Christ. In Christ, you have received ‘every spiritual blessing’ (Ephesians 1:3). All of the blessings, including those that the Old Testament speaks about, are yours in Christ.
1. The blessings of God’s love and healing
Psalm 109:21-31‘You will bless,’ writes David (v.28). All of God’s blessings flow out of his love for you: ‘out of the goodness of your love’ (v.21, Ephesians 1:4,5,11, Isaiah 54:10). God’s love supports you and helps you to stand, even when others ‘scorn’ and ‘curse’ you (Psalm 109:25–26). He stands at your ‘right hand’ (v.31a).
God saves our lives (v.31b, Isaiah 52:10). He heals our wounded hearts. David says, ‘My heart is wounded within me’ (Psalm 109:22). God loves to use people who have been wounded and then healed because no one can minister better than a person who has had the same wound and then been healed by God (see 2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
Lord, thank you for your wonderful love for me. Heal my wounded heart and help me to bring healing to others.
2. The blessings of being in Christ Jesus
Ephesians 1:1-23Many struggle with a low self-image. The New Testament answer to this problem is to know who you are in Christ Jesus: ‘It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for’ (Ephesians 1:11, MSG). Understand what your identity is in Christ. While you may not have every material blessing you want (Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter), God has blessed you ‘with every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (v.3). This passage lists many of these blessings:
- Grace and peace
Paul starts his greetings with ‘grace and peace’ (v.2). Later he says, ‘The riches of God’s grace… [have been] lavished on us’ (vv.7–8). As John Stott writes, ‘Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.’ You have peace with God.
- Chosen, destined and adopted
‘Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world… He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children’ (vv.4–5, AMP; see also v.11).
- Redeemed, forgiven and free
You are redeemed through his blood (v.7a; Isaiah 52:3,9). ‘Redeemed’ was the word used for the buying back of a slave – a captive set free for a price.
Your sins are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7b). Marghanita Laski, the well-known atheist, made an amazing confession on television. She said, ‘What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness.’ She added, rather sadly, ‘I have no one to forgive me.’
‘We’re a free people – free of penalties and punishment chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!’ (v.7, MSG).
- In-dwelt by the Holy Spirit
‘Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit’ (v.13). The Holy Spirit has come to live within you. In the ancient world when a package was dispatched a seal was placed on it to indicate where it had come from and to whom it belonged. You have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.
- Hope for the future
Your inheritance is guaranteed. You have ‘the guarantee of our inheritance [the firstfruits, the pledge and foretaste, the down payment on our heritage], in anticipation of its full redemption and our acquiring [complete] possession of it’ (v.14, AMP). You have ‘the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints’ (v.18b).
- Power and position
His ‘incomparably great power for us who believe’ is in you (v.19a). Power belongs to God, but he has come to live within you and to give you ‘endless energy, boundless strength!’ (v.19, MSG).
You are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (v.20). God has placed you ‘in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments’ (vv.20–21, MSG).
- Authority and responsibility
In Christ, God has placed everything under you for the sake of the church ‘which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way’ (vv.22–23). At her coronation when the orb (the globe under a cross) was placed in her hand, the Queen was reminded: ‘When you see this orb set under the cross, remember that the whole world is subject to the power and empire of Christ our redeemer.’
God has given you great responsibility. His plans for the universe are now in the hands of the church, which is Jesus’ ‘body’ on earth (v.23). ‘The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church’ (vv.22–23, MSG).
Lord, I praise you for every spiritual blessing that you have given me in Christ. Please give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation that I may know you better. May the eyes of my heart be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which you have called me, the riches of your glorious inheritance, and your incomparably great power living within me (vv.17–19).
3. The blessings of the good news of Jesus
Isaiah 51:17-54:17Isaiah writes, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news… who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”’ (52:7). God’s salvation is such good news that it makes even the smelly feet of the messenger seem beautiful! This good news is Isaiah’s message in the next chapter (52:13–53:12). It is the last and greatest of the four servant songs that reveal God’s plan of salvation. There are five stanzas, each revealing an unexpected contrast:
- Apparent failure and actual success (52:13–15)
The cross shatters human expectations. Here, Isaiah foretells Jesus’ scourging and death, his ‘ruined face, disfigured past recognition’ (v.14, MSG). Yet the cross is not the end. The stanza ends in success and triumph, with an image of cleansing and forgiveness across the world; ‘he will sprinkle many nations’ (v.15).
- Our view and God’s view (53:1–3)
‘Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?’ (v.1, MSG). Here we see a contrast between God’s view and the human view. Isaiah foresees that the people would reject Jesus, even though he came to save them.
- Our sin and his suffering (vv.4–6)
Jesus loves you so much that he died instead of you. That is the message at the heart of this passage – indeed of the whole Bible:
‘He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him’ (v.5–6, MSG). Wow!
- The guilty and the innocent (vv.7–9)
This stanza tells of a miscarriage of justice, but one that the innocent Jesus took upon himself voluntarily to bring salvation: ‘He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people’ (v.8, MSG). It also predicts Jesus’ death with extraordinary accuracy: foreseeing his silence at his trial (v.7); that he would die with the guilty and that he would be buried with the rich (v.9).
- Tragedy and triumph (vv.10–13)
What looked like defeat was in fact a victory, ‘what God had in mind all along’ (v.10, MSG). What makes Jesus’ death a triumph? First, ‘he will see his offspring’ (v.10) and ‘make many righteous’ (v.11, MSG) – the millions of transformed lives which are the fruit of his death. Second, ‘he will see the light of life’ (v.11) – Jesus rose again! Lastly, God exalted him, giving him ‘a portion among the great’ (v.12) because of all that he did for us.
As a result of what Jesus did for us, we are promised expansion and growth (54:2). You need not be afraid (v.4) because ‘your Maker is your husband’ (v.5). His love and compassion will never leave you (v.10). ‘No weapon forged against you will prevail’ (v.17).
Lord, thank you for the blessing of the amazing good news of the gospel. Thank you that through your suffering, I am made righteous. Help me to expect great things from you and attempt great things for you.
‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left.’
This is a constant challenge for me, not to play it safe, but to keep