I’m blessed with what?

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We have all probably had this conversation:

“How are you?”

“Blessed.”

But what does ‘blessed’ communicate? How am I to interpret this? I assume my friend’s answer communicates he honors the Lord and recognizes His grace. But sometimes in context, the person’s answer communicates material wealth, relationship status, and lack of trial. “I have my dream job, spouse, children, and home — I’m blessed.”

What does God mean by blessed? How are you blessed? Write your answer down (or text it to yourself).

Now read Ephesians 1:4-14. If your answer is not similar in content as Ephesians 1:4-14, then your answer reveals your presupposition. In other words, when you think of blessing, you think of your answer and you probably need to correct your thinking.  However, if your answer looks similar or was derived from the text then rest assured, you understand God’s true blessing. Getting this right is important for two main reasons. First, a right understanding will keep your perspective and focus on the Lord in every situation. Second, by emphasizing right theology you respond rightly and will praise the Lord in your life.

Being blessed means you have a relationship with Christ. Trial, income level, car type, housing type, relationship status, and recognition do not reveal how much God has blessed you. True blessing is found when we have a relationship with the Triune God, saved from the wrath to come, united to Him, and we understand our relationship exists because of Him.

Is the mother who lost her infant less blessed than the trial free, recently promoted, mother? God tells us He is blessed, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly in Christ Jesus” (Eph 1:3). Do we intend to communicate God has His dream job, dream church body, dream truck, and material wealth? I don’t think so. But He is blessed and so are believers.

So what are these blessings? Paul expresses three main blessings: He chose you, He redeemed you, and you have obtained an inheritance.

Paul lists and provides important details for every blessing. The first blessing is explained in Ephesians 1:4-6, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Usually the Greek language conveys main thoughts through the indicative verb. In this section, He introduces the main concept “He chose us in Him,” then explains what it means for God to chose believers. The second blessing is communicated in 1:7-10, “In Him we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins.” The same pattern exists in 7-10 as 4-6 and continues in 11-14 by explaining our inheritance.

Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence teaching us what it means to be blessed. I love how Paul does not leave us to explore the dictionary to fully understand “blessing” (or εὐλογίᾳ for those who read Greek). Instead he unpacks the word for us teaching us so that when we understand our blessing we praise God.

I look forward to this study. The next article will focus on what God means by “He chose us.”

Jesus answer to the worship debate

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The components of corporate worship have diversified, renovated, and “modernized” throughout church history. Today, it seems everyone has a preference and those preferences have become a requirement. By preferences, what I intend to communicate are those elements in corporate worship not prescribed in Scripture even though important to a person. Style of music is a preference whereas preaching the Bible is directly from the Lord (2 Tim. 4:2). Passing an offering plate or sock is preferential yet the biblical issue is your motivation (see here for details).

I sometimes imagine, church “shoppers” bringing a bingo card with preferences on it and if the church bingos then the family stays. Debates in corporate worship include style of music, offering logistics, children’s church, pastor’s stories, attire, and length of corporate worship. Most argue these issues along preferential lines even though everyone thinks he or she has a great argument. Continue reading

Why Israel is not the church

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Some argue Israel is now the church — almost treating Israel like a metaphor for the church. Often (and this is my understanding of their position) they say there is no future hope for Israel’s restoration. This view however is hard to explain given biblical data. God says in Romans 11:25-29,

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’ ‘This is my covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’ From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
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Why your pastor does care about your giving

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WHAT!?!?! I knew it!!!! “All pastors care about is how much money the church has!” Most of us have probably heard this charge a time or two. Unfortunately there are ‘ministers’ out there who seem to care more about the quantity of your tithe than the quality of your heart in tithing. TBN seems to give time and space to men and women who advertise the more you give, the more blessed you are. But this post is not about false teachers. This post is about why faithful, men of God, trustworthy, honorable, and called to shepherd your soul care about your tithing — to be referenced as giving from this point on.

First, the Bible mentions giving is an act of worship. Matthew 6:2-4 Jesus says that when we give, we need to give secretly and to the Lord. “Your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” In context of chapter 5:21-7 Jesus is talking about righteous actions done for God’s glory. These are sacrificial acts of worship done by believers to honor the Lord. If giving finances to the Lord is worship, then would you want your pastor concerned with your giving? It would seem rather silly to want a pastor to care about your worship but say giving is off limits to the pastor’s concern. Continue reading

Why Eschatology Matters

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Eschatology, the study of end times, may be one of the most debated issues in theology. I have heard some people say, “It really doesn’t matter”; “It’s too complicated, why study?”; and “Too many people fight over it, I don’t want to fight”.

Those objections may have a glimmer of truth to them. First, people can have differing views of eschatology (on some level) and still have the gospel right. People disagree over whether or not Israel will be restored and a seven year tribulation, but both groups still place their faith in Jesus Christ and have been atoned for and will stand next to each other in heaven. Continue reading

Listen to the pastor “among you”

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God calls elders and pastors to “shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Peter 5:2). This small statement has huge implications. First, the key word here is “among”. This word supports three truths regarding the pastor and his flock.

First, it supports the local church because the flock is defined. It is popular, especially in my city, to think the church is universal and as long as you gather with other believers, it is okay because there is a universal church. But 1 Peter 5:1-5 supports a local church led by leaders. In fact, the church here is defined as a specific set of people. “Shepherd the flock of God among you” and elders are not to rule “as lording it over those allotted to your charge but proving to be examples to the flock.” The bold language here supports a local context. Shepherds are called to watch over the church, those specifically allotted to your charge. The church at large mentality does not fit here. Who is called to shepherd the church at large? Who are the elders? Believers are called to be in one local church.[1] Continue reading

Why following God’s design for marriage is wise

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Most people who have read the Bible know Ephesians 5:22-33 lists responsibilities to the husband and wife. These responsibilities are commonly called roles. Both the husband and wife are called to operate in the marriage with different functions. Having different roles does not make one person more valuable than the other. It is like a team. Each person on the team has responsibilities and when they are faithful to the role, working with the other members of the team, the team can produce success or its intended goal. Just like a functioning team, marriage is designed for both people to come together and be one body, with one goal, for a purpose but with different roles. We are commanded to follow the roles. In fact, to not follow the roles makes us unwise. Continue reading

Covenantal understanding of believer’s righteousness

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This post continues a series on Covenant Theology. The criticism offered below falls within the context of the previous posts (beginning here). Please feel free to offer criticism, comments, and observations but failure to read the other posts could enfeeble one’s own remarks.

Flowing from CT’s faulty understanding of mankind’s relationship to Adam’s sin is its faulty understanding of the righteousness of Christ imputed to believers. CT’s understanding of salvation is based on the covenant of grace. In the same way that Adam stood as the covenant head of the covenant of works, so Christ stands as the covenant head of the covenant of grace. As was discussed above, CT views the demands of the covenant of works as binding upon all men of all times. As such, it was not enough for Christ to simply die in the place of sinners as a substitute and bear the wrath of God on their behalf. If that were all that happened then man would be no better than being placed back in a probationary state like Adam. Men would still need to merit their own righteousness by works in order to be rewarded with eternal life. In this scheme salvation by grace alone has a weird twist to it. Sproul’s sentiments are typical of proponents of CT, Continue reading

Faulty Understanding of Man’s relationship to Adam’s Sin

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This post continues a series on Covenant Theology. The criticism offered below falls within the context of the previous posts (beginning here). Please feel free to offer criticism, comments, and observations but failure to read the other posts could enfeeble one’s own remarks.

As mentioned earlier, CT teaches that the first sin of Adam was imputed (according to the stipulations of the covenant of works) to all of his progeny. When it comes to the discussion of the imputation of Adam’s sin there are two views, “immediate” and “mediate” imputation. Immediate imputation may also be called the “federal theory.” “This view holds that Adam is both the natural and the federal head of the human race. The federal or representative headship is the specific ground of the imputation of Adam’s sin. When Adam sinned….God imputed the guilt of the first sin to….the entire human race.”[1] Mediate imputation holds that a corrupt nature is inherited through natural generation from Adam and that this is what then becomes the ground for God imputing the guilt of Adam to his posterity. The imputation is mediated through inherited corruption which is the consequence, not punishment, of Adam’s sin.[2]
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why give grace?

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On my best days I know the grace of God poured out on me is beyond measure. Paul says “His grace which He lavished on us.” I love the word lavish. I wish my plate was lavished with bacon. My heart and arteries are glad my plate isn’t lavished with bacon.

God, He lavishes grace.

This is good. When I’m having a bad moment, deceived by my own heart and its idols I sin. I rebel, get angry, worry about the results of a situation, or grow jealous. Continue reading