The Adequacy of the Blessing
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” 2 Peter 1:3
“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.” Ephesians 1:3
Some time ago, I found myself in an unusual financial dilemma. Things were tight in those days, and the bank account hovered near zero. The next paycheck, thanks to a holiday extending the weekend, was still four days away. A grim weekend loomed, with no disposable capital.
But wait! In the afternoon mail on the last day before the long weekend, a check arrived. The amount was significant enough to transform a dismal soup-and-macaroni weekend into something much more.
But alas, the banks would not open for four more days. I had the money in hand (sort of); it belonged tome fully. But it was in a form that was inaccessible to me. Accordingly, I was forced to live like a pauper through the weekend until I could both deposit the check and receive the regular paycheck. I ate soup and macaroni from the pantry, when (by rights) I could have been dining out at fine restaurants.
Sadly, I view this as an apt metaphor for the lives of many Christian believers, my sisters and brothers in the faith. Lacking adequate teaching about the abundant blessings that already belong to them, they live as paupers, eking out a meager Christian life without joy or contentment. They hold in their hands a check worth thousands of dollars, yet they plead with God to give them something more, something new, something shiny.
Why do I suspect this is true? Two reasons: First, from teaching adult Christian-education classes, I am painfully aware that Christians are not only unaware of the blessings that are theirs in Christ, but (amazingly) actively hostile to teaching about them. They will deny what God has done on their behalf, and insist on a “skin-for-skin” spirituality that sees God as a stingy dispenser of blessings to those who earn them in some manner. They deny grace, and desire a system of law and duty.
Second, I can hear it in the songs that are sung. As a musician, worship leader, and songwriter (shameless plug here) I try to keep abreast of the newest developments in Christian worship music. We seem to have entered a period where the main element in our worship lyrics, the chief concept we wish to express, is not gratitude or praise. We instead come to God to present a petition, a plea to send a new experience our way.
The Song of Pleading
This in itself would not be bad, except that this pleading tone seems to dominate our worship times. By repeatedly leading the the assembled church in expressing their need for new experiences, we as worship leaders are reinforcing the notion that the congregation’s current Christian experience is inadequate. It lacks something. We too rarely sing songs that simply declare New Testament truths about our identity, our redemption, or the blessings we already possess. Our Christian experience may in fact be inadequate — but the answer is not to beg for some new revelation or blessing. The answer is to learn to appreciate the rock-solid truths of the New Testament, and own them. The answer is to marinate in these truths until they affect our thinking, our emotional states, our sense of self.
The first-century heresy of Gnosticism, though not explicitly defined by the New Testament writings, apparently derived some of its appeal from the susceptibility of Christians to this kind of approach: “You need more; they haven’t told you everything; there’s something greater out there if you will reach out for it.” To this kind of thinking the apostle John wrote forcefully that believers should stand on what they a.ready know. “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard” (1 John 2:7). John is the consummate conservative, urging his flock to stay true to what has already been revealed, and not to seek out new experiences and revelations.
My admonition to you, Christian believer, is to study the truth of the New Testament. Be wary of teachings (sometimes coming in the form of songs) urging you to yearn for a new experience, or implying that you have missed out. You already have “every spiritual blessing in Christ”! Read the rest of Ephesians chapter 1, and take those truths to heart.