ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH MAY 20, 2018
Rev. Blaine Dunnett
The Super Abundance of Blessings
(Scriptures: Romans 5: 1 – 5; Ephesians 1: 1- 14)
Did you know that I was baptized at St. Stephen’s? I went to Sunday School at St. Stephen’s. I took my first communion at St. Stephen’s. I was ordained to ministry at St. Stephen’s. By now you know that there’s more than one St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church. My home congregation is St. Stephen’s in Sunny Corner, N.B. and I expect to be there next Sunday.
Last month a Vigil was held in Humboldt, SK for the families and communities devastated by the Hockey Bus tragedy. A local pastor was the chaplain of the team, Sean Brandow, and he gave the message. He began by saying how empty and lost he felt as a result of all that he had seen and heard. He felt that this was indeed the ‘valley of darkness and death’ of the 23rd Psalm. He said that he had many hours of darkness, hurt and anguish; fear and confusion;and that he desperately needed a word from God. Four times in those hours several people sent him words of Scripture as an encouragement. That was the word from God that he needed more than anything else.
That’s why we’ve come together today; our world isn’t the same as there’s was and is, but we’ve come to hear a word from the Lord. It’s that which what makes this gathering different from any other group to which you belong.
This is Pentecost Sunday; your pastor reminded me of it. She mentioned, too, your tradition of wearing something red. I like red, but I’m told that it doesn’t look good on me. Besides, I didn’t want you to think that I was making a political statement! Being Pentecost you might expect me to focus on Acts chp.2 – the Holy Spirit comes at the Jewish Festival of Pentecost with the blowing of a violent wind and tongues of fire. Were you listening with the children?
Or you might expect a sermon on the fruits of the Holy Spirit, or the various spiritual gifts that Paul wrote about. Instead, I chose the beginning of Paul’s Ephesian letter –especially the 3rd verse: “How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is ! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him.” (The Message) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (NIV) This text reveals the awesome and primary work of God the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s Letter Opening goes through to chp. 2 and verse 10. His theme is the new life that God has given us in Christ. Verses 3 – 14 are his Praise portion and the remaining verses are his Prayer portion. And in his prayer he’s asking God to open our eyes to grasp the fullness of this blessing. But now, I’m only focused on the Praise. Paul writes an exclamation of Praise to God;He blesses God for His spiritual blessings to us.
Did you know that those twelve verses of Paul’s Praise to God are one sentence in the original language? Our English translations have broken it up into several. Paul’s giving us an outburst of adoration to God – like he’s on a thoroughbred race horse charging toward the finish line – like the horses did yesterday at the Preakness. He’s excited that God has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ. These blessings are derived from the Holy Spirit and brought into our lives by the Holy Spirit.
But before he mentions several of these spiritual blessings he tells us their source: it’s God’s love and plan from eternity.
God took the initiative and purposed that they and we should be blessed with salvation. He planned our creation. He wanted our communion with Him. And He knew we’d rebel and fall from that fellowship: sin and disobey. But He would restore us through His Son.
The Father’s Plan from eternity was then accomplished in time. He sent His Son, Jesus, the promised Deliverer. He was sent to seek and save the lost. And that salvation action was the Cross — ‘God was in Christ reconciling us to Himself’. He paid the penalty of death for sin and disobedience that we deserved. Jesus fulfilled his Father’s salvation Plan. He finished the work given to Him.
But now, how can that saving act of Jesus be applied to me? One of the first theological books I read years ago was by a Scottish theologian by the name of John Murray. It was titled “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” Redemption was accomplished by Jesus in his death and resurrection and applied to us by the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul now comes to in this Ephesian text: the spiritual blessings of salvation the Holy Spirit brings: the blessing of adoption, the blessing of redemption, the blessing of forgiveness, the blessing of knowledge, the blessing of security. Every blessing that Jesus secured on the Cross is given to you who believe in Him. No wonder Paul exclaims: “Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
The story is told of the young engineer fresh out of University who was being interviewed for his first job. The interview was drawing to a close and the Human Resources officer asked him: ‘And what starting salary were you looking for?’ The engineer replied: “In the range of $125,000. a year depending on the benefits package.” The interviewer then asked:
“Well, what would you say to a package of 5 weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every 2 years, say, a red Corvette?” The engineer sat up straight and said: “Wow! Are you kidding?” The interviewer said: “Yeah! But you started it!”
Friends, the Apostle Paul wasn’t kidding when he listed these blessings given by the Holy Spirit to the believers in Jesus Christ. Wow! They’re super abundant. When Paul wrote to the Church at Rome (Roms. 5) he put the same truth this way: “we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”
And the blessings are spiritual in nature. This is the distinction of the New Covenant in Christ. Under the Old Covenant the blessings of God were usually temporal and material (Deuteronomy 28): many children, a good harvest, an abundance of sheep and cattle, and leadership among the nations. Not that we don’t have material blessings; God has promised to bless us with food and drink and clothes, but the spiritual blessings are abundant in a way the Old Covenant believers never knew.
Let me review them briefly: The blessing of adoption -You believe in Jesus as your Saviour from sin and you become a child of God – adopted into God’s family. Everyone’s a child of God in the sense of being created in God’s image. But our nature is sinful, rebellious, disobedient. It’s not the the best and highest that God wants you to have. He wants you to know Him as your loving Heavenly Father and that Jesus can be the Saviour of your life from sin. Imagine a relationship with God in which you can call Him ‘Daddy’. And you can freely and easily come into His presence in prayer and make all your desires known.
The blessing of redemption: Redeemed means being delivered by a ransom price paid. You’re free, abundantly free: free from the penalty and bondage of sin which is death. Your ransom price? The blood of Jesus shed on the Cross. A couple of weeks ago three Americans were freed by North Korea. President Trump greeted their arrival in Washington in the middle of the night. Was a ransom paid? No! But there was a ransom paid for your freedom from the wages of sin.
The blessing of forgiveness: You’re forgiven all your sin because the ransom was paid. Forgiveness: what a blessing! Consider how the Bible views your forgiveness: your sins as buried in the deepest sea, completely forgotten by God; cleansed and cleared from your record removed from you as far as the east is from the west – an infinite distance!. Wow! Forgiven – there’s now no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus.
The blessing of knowledge: The Holy Spirit has made known to us the mystery of God’s will in Christ. That mystery is that all history is moving toward a new heavens and a new earth, a time when all creation will worship and serve the Master, Jesus, who’ll be the Head of everything. You’re not ignorant of the future; you’re in the know. You know that life isn’t meaningless.
You’ve heard the sad story of Barry and Honey Sherman – the Toronto couple believed to have been murdered in their home. Successful in business and generous with charities. Several years ago Mr. Sherman wrote that there’s no God and no morality. “I find no inconsistency in holding intellectually that life has no meaning, while at the same time being highly motivated to survive and to achieve.”
Paul wrote: “God made known to us the mystery of his will.” ‘Mystery’ – not meaning that it was incomprehensible, but the sense that it isn’t able to be discovered by human reason. The mystery was revealed to you by the Spirit!
Finally, the blessing of security: “you were marked in Him (Christ) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance …”Enough that the Holy Spirit has applied to us all the other blessings, but now He comes Himself to live within us. He’s a deposit and a seal. And what God has sealed and deposited He’ll bring to fulfillment; there’s our salvation security.
A couple of weeks ago the Seattle Mariners played the Toronto Blue Jays. The Mariner pitcher was a Canadian by the name of James Paxton and he pitched a no-hitter! An awesome accomplishment in its own rite. But this to boot: Paxton is the only Canadian to pitch a no-hitter in major league baseball since 1945; and he did it on Canadian soil! The Blue Jay fans applauded him. And as he left the field he held up his right arm – on the underside he has a tattoo of a large maple leaf! He’s been marked, sealed with his Canadian identity.
Friends, your salvation security seal isn’t external; it’s internal – the Holy Spirit within. Wow!
Five spiritual blessings: adoption, redemption, forgiveness, knowledge and security. Now, I want to close as I began: I was baptized at St. Stephen’s. I have the certificate right here “was this ninth day of May 1954 baptized ….” It was Mother’s Day, 64 years ago. My parents professed their Christian faith and promised to bring me up in the knowledge and love of God and of Jesus Christ. I’m thankful they fulfilled their vow. They believed God’s promise that our children belong to God by covenant. I entered upon an engagement to be the Lord’s.
An “Engagement” – but we know that an ‘engagement’ needs to be followed up by personal commitment. Harry and Meghan’s engagement last November was consummated by personal commitment in marriage yesterday. So it is with a baptismal engagement; I followed my engagement with a personal commitment to Jesus Christ: believing in Him as my Saviour from my sin.
Paul wrote: ‘having believed, you were marked in Christ with a seal …’ Not having been baptized, but having believed for yourself. Confessing with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead.
There’s salvation! There’s the way to experience every spiritual blessing of Jesus. I trust that you too with Paul are ready to explode with excitement; to praise God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit!