Sermon for Sunday July 12th, 2015, the Sixth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Ephesians 1:3-14
Theme: Our life for “the praise of God’s glory”
Text: Ephesians 1:3-14
“How many people here today are blessed?” This is a question I have heard Pentecostal ministers ask their congregations on a Sunday morning. Usually in this context the primary kinds of blessing are spiritual, but financial blessings may well be implied. Of course, the question encourages Christians to think of the ways in which God has blessed them. I am reminded of a hymn by Johnson Oatman, Jr. called “Count Your Blessings”:
1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]
2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.
3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—*money cannot buy [*wealth can never buy]
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
Counting one’s blessings is an important spiritual exercise in cultivating gratitude for all that God has done. It is easy enough to remember trials and troubles. For some people, these become almost too many to count. But it is a much more fruitful exercise to count one’s blessings, and to thank and bless God for each of them. In so doing we counteract the tendency towards despondency which is so often encountered in life in this world.
By counting our blessings we also remain thankful for God’s love and grace at work in our lives, and for all God has done in the Lord Jesus Christ for all His children, whom He has chosen to deliver from sin and the eternal hell. In other words, by counting our blessings, we remain thankful for God’s election of us to salvation, and all the blessings that election entails.
In expounding the spiritual blessings with which God has blessed His people, St. Paul sets before us the truths on which the doctrines of predestination and election are based. Article XVII of The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England defines predestination in this way:
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
The Article proceeds to point out that a godly perspective on the doctrine of Predestination and our Election in Christ is a great benefit and comfort to Christians, and makes their love for God more fervent. How does St. Paul describe the spiritual blessings Christians have received by being in Christ through Baptism?
These spiritual blessings begin with the election of all Christians in Christ before the creation of the world. God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless before him in love (v. 4). Before the foundation of the world God not only foresaw the faithful as holy and blameless, filled with His love; He also predestined them to be so (v. 5). He gave the faithful the grace to obey Him and to believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This election and predestination that the faithful would be adopted as His children was all to the praise of His glorious grace (v. 6). By grace we believed, repented, obeyed, and were accepted as God’s beloved children.
The riches of God’s grace brought God’s people redemption through Christ’s blood, and the forgiveness of all sins (v.7). After receiving the forgiveness of sins through the redemption by Christ’s blood, we receive the blessings of wisdom and prudence in spiritual things (v. 8).
This wisdom brings us a realization of the mystery of God’s will. God’s will is to gather together all things in unity in Christ, so that all come under His authority and share in His life forever. Another blessing is apparent from this, that in Christ we, too, have an inheritance forever. This also is part of God’s everlasting purpose: that His people should have this everlasting inheritance and that our whole life after coming to Christ should be to the praise of God’s glory (v. 12) and be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, who is the pledge of our future inheritance of God’s everlasting kingdom.
As we thank and bless God for all our spiritual blessings, let us remember that whatever we face in life, we must always be thankful for all that God has done for us in Christ, and we must live life to the praise of God’s glory!