Deuteronomy: Love Revealed – “Love’s Blessings”


April 8th, 2018

Dt. 28:1-14

“Love’s Blessings”

Aux Text: Gal 3:10-14

Call to Worship: Psalm 23

 

 

Service Orientation: God wants to bless.   We open our door of opportunity for God’s blessings when we live a life of love, gratitude, and obedience.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: 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

 

Background Information:

 

  • It is not hard to understand why this is perhaps the most difficult chapter in Deuteronomy for a modern reader to cope with. And yet the fact is that in its ancient context this list of blessings and the even longer list of curses would have been expected at this point.  Deuteronomy is structurally modeled on the secular treaty format, and a consistent feature of those treaties is the section of blessings and curses that follows the detailed stipulations of the treaty in order to give them a solemn and binding force.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 280)
  • Two things about the blessing and cursing sections of this chapter deserve comment: (1) Israel’s God comes first to bless His people. The usual order of other ancient covenants is curses, then blessings; here the order is reversed.  (2) The blessings (vv. 1-14) are heavily outnumbered by the curses (vv. 15-68).  The reason for this probably lies in Israel’s tendency to go astray.  This trait displayed itself in the journey through the wilderness.  Several other ancient Near Eastern law codes and treaties also contained more curses than blessings.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 283)
  • (v. 6) Another all-inclusive blessing, like the first one. Reference is to all coming and going (a merism), which would include walks to and from home, walks in and out of the city, pilgrimages, journeys, expeditions of war, and other movements of entering and exiting, beginning and completion.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 762)
  • (vss. 9-11) Once again Moses conditioned Israel’s blessed relationship to the Lord on keeping his commands and walking in his ways (v. 9). If Israel would do this, the Lord would fulfill his sworn promise to establish them; he would confirm his oath by establishing whatever he promised.

This establishment of the people as the Lord’s holy people would make all the other people of the world recognize that the Israelites were “called by the name of the LORD” (v. 10), and this would make the nations afraid of them.  The name of the Lord being called on them (cf. 2 Chr 7:14; Jer 14:9; 15:16; Amos 9:12) is like a badge of his ownership identifying them as his.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 167)

  • (v. 10) In having Yahweh’s name called upon the nation, Israel will enjoy Yahweh’s protection. According to the Song of Moses, this protection was shown particularly in the wilderness (32:10-12).  To call someone or something by one’s name is to claim ownership (2 Sm 12:28; Isa 4:1; Amos 9:12; Isa 43:1, 6-7; Ezra 2:61).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 764)
  • (v. 10) In Deuteronomy the central sanctuary is said to have Yahweh’s name called upon it, giving rise to the so-called “name theology” in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic writings. This theology carried over into Jeremiah, where the nation (Jer 14:9), the city of Jerusalem (25:29), the temple (7:10-11, 14, 30; 32:34; 34:15), and the prophet himself (15:16) are all said to have Yahweh’s name called upon them.  This “name theology” is retained in Dan 9:19.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 764)
  • (v. 12) Jesus certainly taught the eventual relationship of character to destiny. What He repudiated was the immediate relationship of character to circumstance.  Thus, the case of the lad being born blind had nothing at all to do with sin.  The eighteen who were crushed to death by the falling tower in Siloam were not quintessential sinners (Lk 13:1-5).  Jesus taught that God sends rain and sunshine on unbeliever and believer alike (Mt 5:45), a point especially interesting in light of Dt 28:12, which pinpoints rain as one of God’s blessings on the obedient.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 286)
  • (v. 12) The Israelites were facing a land where belief in the fertility gods of Baalism was common. The various Baals were thought to be in control of rain.  The Canaanites believed that Baal had a house in the heavens with an opening in the roof from which the rains were sent.  Whether this constitutes the background for the figure underlying the storehouse in the heavens here, Moses did insist that it was the Lord who would either bless Israel abundant rain or withhold rain because of her disobedience.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 3, 168)
  • Deuteronomy greatly influences many of the other OT books. Joshua and Kings function primarily as a historical witness to the truthfulness of Deuteronomy’s theology vis-a-vis obedience, disobedience, and consequences.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 284)
  • As noted above, verses 9-10 represent the theological heart of this paragraph and the climax of all the blessings in verses 1-14. Echoing 26:18-19, Moses articulates Yahweh’s ideal for his people and their privileges as his covenant partner (cf. Ex 19:5-6).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 650)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What does this text teach us about the blessings of God?

 

Answer: God wants to bless us.  We open the door of opportunity for God’s blessing through our obedience, love and gratitude.   God is sovereign over all and blesses as He desires for our good and His glory.  Also, God desires for us to evangelize through His blessing.  We are blessed to be a blessing.

 

Moses reminds Israel that God humbled her in the wilderness, not because of any specific sin, but to teach her and to test her (Dt 8:2-3).  It was a way of disciplining Israel (Dt 8:5).  Moses also reminds Israel that she has been given wealth, but it is all a gift of God, not something earned (Dt 8:18).  God is not giving the blessing of the land to Israel because she is more righteous than the other nations (Dt 9:4-6).  And finally, Israel avoided the wrath of God in the episode of the golden calf only because Moses interceded and prayed at length on Israel’s behalf (Dt 9:25-29).  She is spared by virtue of Moses’ dependence on God.  So, even the Book of Deuteronomy cautions us against oversimplifying a very complex area of walking with God.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 286-7)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Bless

 

To bless in the OT means “to endue with power for success, prosperity, fecundity, longevity, etc.”  It is frequently contrasted with qalal “to esteem lightly, curse” (cf. Deut 30:1, 19). (R. Laird Harris, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p. 132)

 

In general, the blessing is transmitted from the greater to the lesser.  This might involved father to son (Gen 49), brothers to sister (Gen 24:60), king to subjects (1 Kgs 8:14).  The blessing might be conveyed at departures on special occasions (2 Chr 6:3) or upon introduction (Ge 47:7,10).  Its major function seems to have been to confer abundant and effective life upon something (Gen 2:3; 1 Sam 9:13; Isa 66:3) or someone (Gen 27:27f.; Gen 49). (R. Laird Harris, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p. 132)

 

It is clear that for the OT the abundant life rests directly upon the loving and faithful nature of God.   (R. Laird Harris, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p. 132)

 

Whatever may have been the ancient near eastern conception of the source of blessing, the OT sees God as the only source. As such he controls blessing and cursing (Num 22ff.).  His presence confers blessing (2 Sam 6:11-20), and it is only in his name that others can confer blessing (Deut 10:8, etc.).   Indeed, God’s name, the manifestation of his personal, redemptive, covenant-keeping nature, is at the heart of all blessing.

As a result, those who are wrongly related to God can neither bless (Mal 2:2) nor be blessed (Deut 28) and no efficacious word can alter this.  (R. Laird Harris, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p. 132)

 

“Blessing,” too, is to be interpreted here in the broadest sense possible.  It does not translate simply into agricultural and commercial prosperity, as in v.12-13a, but will encompass the whole of life.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 761-2)

 

What does this text teach us about the blessings of God?:

 

 

  • God wants to bless. Obedience, gratitude and love opens the door of opportunity.  (Dt 28:1-2, 9, 13-14; see also: Ex 19:5-6; 23:26; Lev 26:1-12;  Dt 7:12-24; 8:17f; 9:4-6; 11:13-15; 15:4-6; 26:18-19; Psa 1, 23; 31:19; 121; Mt 7:11; Mk 8:34-38; 10:29-30; Jn 10:10; 13:17; 14-15)

 

As a whole the unit summarizes the rewards for covenant obedience, though verses 9 and 13b-14 remind the hearers that these benefactions are not unconditional entitlements (cf. vv. 1-2).  Within this relationship Israel will never be able to claim credit of the blessings they enjoy, but they will be held fully liable if the blessings do not materialize.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 649)

 

Dt 28:1-14 contains a list of the blessings the nation Israel will receive if they obey God fully.  At the start and end of this section are statements that the blessings are only for those who completely obey.  In two places in the body of the passage are two more statements reminding us that the condition for the blessings listed is obedience (28:2b, 9b).  The emphasis on complete obedience in the beginning and end is significant.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 591)

 

Full obedience to the Lord results in blessing for his people.  Among these blessings is eminence.  If Israel obeyed the Lord, she would be set high above all the nations of the world (26:19).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 166)

 

Theologically, we should not treat the blessings and curses as though they were comparable opposites.  The headings of the NIV unfortunately give that impression: “Blessings for Obedience” and “Curses for Disobedience.”  Likewise, some popular versions of the “Prosperity Gospel” give the impression that all the material blessings of verses 2-14 will come pouring out of the heavenly slot machine if you press the right behavior buttons.  However, although it is clear that if the curses happen, they will come as deserved punishment, there is no corresponding sense in which the blessings can be earned as some kind of reward.  The whole thrust of Deuteronomy would protest at such an idea.  Israel is bluntly warned to make no equations between military or material success and its own merits (8:17f.; 9:4-6).  Rather, that they are God’s people at all.  It is intrinsic to the promise to Abraham and to the covenant relationship.  Blessing is the prior reality of God’s grace.  It is there to be enjoyed, but can be enjoyed only by living in God’s way in the land God is giving them.  Obedience, therefore, like faith, is the means of appropriating God’s grace and blessing, not the means of deserving it.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 280-1)

 

The Christian Way — The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.   A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food.   A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.   Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, bk 3, ch 10, p. 120)

 

Religion is the major reason the West rose to become the most prosperous civilization in the world.  In the Middle Ages, Europe was like a modern Third World country, with little education, widespread poverty, and recurring famine.  Medieval Christians thought of holy living as something required only of a spiritual elite–just as the Bible belonged only to an elite, the priests and monks.  The common people felt little moral imperative to be honest or industrious.

But the Reformation changed that.  The Reformers taught that all believers are called to live holy lives–just as all may read the Bible.  Every vocation can be a calling, a way to serve God and the human community.  As a result, the Reformation stressed in ethic of honesty, diligence, and thrift–what has been called the Protestant work ethic.  It had a profound effect economically.  Modern business practices became possible, prosperity blossomed.

Today we have nearly forgotten that the foundation of our economy lies in the Christian moral vision.  And as a result, we are seeing our economy dragged down by dishonesty and fraud.   (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, p. 305)

 

You want to know how faithful God is?  He loved us so much to send His Son Jesus to die for us so we could be saved from ourselves and our sinfulness.  And He encourages us to come to Him by providing us with all sorts benefits, blessings, assurances, promises and encouragement.  What is heaven, the fruit of the Spirit, eternal life, wholeness, peace and joy but carrots that God dangles in front of our eyes to try and coax us into loving Him.

And He does not do this because He is desperate for our love.  But, He does this because He loves us and knows we are ignorant of our desperate need for His love.  — Pastor Keith

 

The essence of following the Lord’s commands lies in fidelity and loyalty to him.  The essence of disobedience was following and serving (worshiping) other gods.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 168)

 

God enjoys our enjoyment!  He filled the world with good things for a reason.  Go to a football game.  Spend time with your family.  Take a vacation.  Pursue an enjoyable hobby.  Relax in the sauna.  Do a little something for yourself every day, and thank God for the blessings He has abundantly poured into your life.

Author Jim McGuiggan has observed:

Some saints can’t enjoy a meal because the world is starving.  They can’t joyfully thank God for their clothing and shelter because the world is naked and homeless.  They’re afraid to enjoy an evening at home with their families because they feel like they ought to be out saving souls.  They can’t spend an hour with an unforgiven one without feeling guilty if they haven’t preached a sermon or manifested a sober Christian spirit.  They know nothing of balance and they’re miserable because of it…They think the gospel is good news until you obey it.  And then it becomes an endless guilt trip.  (Jim McGuiggan, The Irish Papers: Lessons from Life as quoted by David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, p. 67)

 

(1) Every good gift comes from God.  (2) Many blessings and curses are a result of man’s response to God.  (3) Some blessings and curses are a result of God’s plan for man.  (4) Blessings can become curses if we fail to glorify God.  (5) The teaching “. . . whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal 6:7) is a general principle that will be true in the long run, but there will be times when it seems to be a fallacy.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 287)

 

In keeping with Moses’ opening appeal to heed the voice of Yahweh as the test of fidelity to the covenant Lord (Deut. 28:1-2) and reiterated throughout the litany of curses, Jesus declared to his disciples, “If you love me [i.e., are covenantally committed to me], keep my commands” (Jn 14:15, 21, pers. trans.).  Indeed, in the sequence of the call to obedience to Christ in John 14 and the parable of the vine and the vinedresser in John 15, we observe a NT equivalent to the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28.  Specifically, Jesus seeks to motivate fidelity by promising that those branches that bear fruit–which in the context means keeping his commands–will abide in his love and experience full joy (vv. 10-12), but those branches that do not bear fruit will be lopped off and tossed into the fire (v. 6).  The former obviously answers to the blessings of Dt 28:1-14, while the latter answers to the curses (28:15-68).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 667)

 

  • God can bless as He desires and promises because God is loving and sovereign. (Dt 28:2-8. 11-13; see also: Gen 15:5; Ex 32:13; Lev 26:1-12; Dt 1:10; Psa 23; 73; 145:17; 1 Chron 29:10-14; Mt 5:45; 6:19-33; Phil 4:19; 1 Tim 6:1-19)

 

The Lord never made us to live alongside him, as his rivals, but under him, as his children.  He promises, “I’ll give you everything you need.  I’ll never let you down.  Trust me.”  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 260)

 

At an evangelical college in America, a guest lecturer from Europe, observing the Christian response to events, said, “I’ve noticed a very odd reaction.  If something ‘good’ happens, you thank God.  If something “bad” happens, you suddenly blame the devil.  Where is your recognition of the providence of God?”  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 319)

 

The primary concern here is not with rewards; it is rather with the conditions which must be met if life with all its hope and promise is to be found.  This life is God’s blessing, the fruit of his lordship in the covenant (cf. Mt 6:33).  If his sovereignty is denied, then his controversy with a rebellious nation will be known by the curses through which he will force the nation in order to purge, refine, and discipline it that it may indeed become a people holy to him.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 494)

Do with me whatever it shall please thee.  For it can not be anything but good, whatever thou shalt do with me.  If it be thy will I should be in darkness, be thou blessed; and if it be thy will I should be in light, be thou again blessed.  If thou grant me comfort, be thou blessed; and if thou will have me afflicted, be thou still equally blessed.  My son, such as this ought to be thy state, if thou desire to walk with Me.  Thou must be as ready to suffer as to rejoice.  Thou must cheerfully be as destitute and poor, as full and rich.  (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III:17:1-2)

 

Here, however, a difficult question arises,–if all prosperity proceeds from the peculiar blessing which God vouchsafes to His servants, whence is it that many of His despisers have children, easy and happy circumstances, abundance of the fruits of the earth, enjoyment and luxury, honors and power?  I answer, that the happy condition of life, which He assigns to His servants, does not prevent Him from diffusing His bounty promiscuously over the whole human race.  He is truly called in Ps 36:6, the preserver of “man and beast.”  It is said elsewhere, that His mercy is extended over all His creatures, (Ps 145:17); and justly does Christ exalt His unbounded goodness, in that “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and one the good” (Mt 5:45).  But equally true is the exclamation of the Prophet; “Oh, how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee!” (Ps 31:19).  For since all without exception enjoy all the supports of life, God’s goodness, which thus contends with the wickedness of men, sines forth universally even towards the ungodly, so that He does not cease to cherish and preserve those whom He has created, although they be unworthy.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 222)

 

The problem of poverty is to remain physically alive.  The problem of prosperity is to remain spiritually alive. — Herbert E. Drooz

 

Stop praying, “Lord, bless what I’m doing,” and start praying, “Lord, help me to do what you are blessing.” (Rick Warren; The Purpose Driven Church, p. 15)

 

Every productivity would be under either the blessing or the curse: children, crops, and livestock, including both herds and flocks (v. 4).  The blessing of reproduction had been in the promise to Abraham and was repeated throughout the revelation through Moses (Gn 15:5; Ex 32:13; Dt 1:10).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 167)

 

Blessing or curse would extend to the Israelites’ daily sustenance (vv. 5, 17), the basket and kneading trough being used to gather food products and to prepare them for meals.

Among a desert-dwelling people, food products were scarce (notwithstanding the manna) and hunger and thirst common.  An abundance of foodstuffs was a notable blessing indeed!  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 167)

 

“Life and death look to us like two evils of which we know not which is the less.  As for the Apostle, they look to him like two immense blessings, of which he knows not which is the better. . . On either side of the veil, Jesus Christ is all things to him . . . Only , the conditions of the other side are such that the longed-for companionship of his Master will be more perfectly realized there.” (H. C. CG. Moule; Philippians Studies; pgs. 71, 78)

 

As the writer of Ecclesiastes observed, one fate comes to both the wise and the foolish (2:14; 9:2).  Both are forgotten quickly (2:16).  Man has no advantage over the beast (3:19).  God gives wealth and honor, but others who do not deserve these blessings partake of them like scavengers (6:2).  The experience of Job is well known.  Job’s friends were reflecting the theology of Deuteronomy accurately, but their application of it to Job was inaccurate and, thus, irrelevant.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 286)

 

It’s not by doing the things we like, but by liking the things we do that we can discover life’s blessings. (Goethe; Bits & Pieces for Salespeople : June 15, 2000 p. 5)

 

  • God desires for us to evangelize through His blessing. We are blessed to be a blessing. (Dt 28:9-10 see also: Gen 12:1-3;  Lk 6:38)

 

The purpose of God blessing this people is ultimately so that God can bless all the peoples on earth.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 281)

 

Churches that give away blessings are much more likely to be blessed.  (Leith Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century, p. 192)

 

Do unbelievers see your life as so blessed that they want what you’ve got?”   (Joyce Meyer The Character of God tape series, tape 6 “God is Faithful and True” side A)

 

Bumper sticker in Chicago – Too Blessed to Complain

 

God’s glory shines more brightly when he satisfies us in times of loss than when he provides for us in times of plenty.  The health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel” swallows up the beauty of Christ in the beauty of his gifts and turns the gifts into idols.  The world is not impressed when Christians get rich and say thanks to God.  They are impressed when God is so satisfying that we give our riches away for Christ’s sake and count it gain.  (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 72)

 

It can be said about us, as humans, that we try to be like our God.  If He is conceived to be stern and exacting and harsh, so will we be!

The blessed and inviting truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings, and in our worship of Him we should find unspeakable pleasure.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, p. 28)

 

You want to know what makes a person thankful?  They think about their blessings.  You want to know what makes a person hard-hearted and stiff-necked?  They think about themselves.

 

Ralph Winter has popularized the analysis of biblical Israel as a nation that wanted to be blessed but didn’t want to be a blessing.  The result was their destruction.  (Leith Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century, p. 191)

 

The Hebrew word that means blessing contains a surprising picture in its meaning. The word carried with it the idea of giving a gift on bended knee. A blessing was never something to be held onto but was instead something to be given away. Our culture collects blessings, while God meant for us to be conduits of blessing. What a difference a definition makes! — Jennifer Rothschild
How are the key relationships in your life? What about your marriage? What about your relationship with your children? If you are single, how are you doing in the area of moral purity? Dad, Mom, do you see your family as an opportunity for God to demonstrate his power and grace to those who are watching?

“What’s this got to do with vision?” you ask. Everything. We are not much of a light on a hill if we sacrifice people and purity for the sake of achieving our vision. When we do so, we remove any incentive God may have had to bless our labor. We become unblessable because we have made ourselves unusable. At that point there is nothing of significance for God to draw attention to. (Andy Stanley; Visioneering, p.229)

 

 

 

First, God says that He would deal with them so bountifully that they should excel all other nations; for this is the meaning of the words, that they should be illustrious above all the rest of the world on account of the special blessings of God.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 220)

 

When Yahweh establishes Israel as his holy people, then all the nations of the earth will see that Israel is branded with his name.  Translated literally (“that the name of Yahweh is read/called upon your”), this expression derives from the practice of inscribing or branding one’s name on property.  When the nations read Yahweh’s name on Israel, they will recognize both that he owns them and that their well-being is a reflection of their divine Suzerain.  They will transfer the awe that is rightly expressed before God to the people who bear his awesome name.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 651)

 

Worship Point: Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.  Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father (1 Chron 29:10-14; Jam 1:17).

 

This country including you and most of the people related to you by birth or marriage or both is populated by beings who have been so blessed for so long that they have become almost completely immune to any interests other than their own.  (Denis Leary, Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid)

 

Gospel Application: If blessing were available to us solely on our merits, obedience, love or good works; we would never receive anything from the Lord.  But,  Christ redeemed us in order that we might receive God’s blessings (Dt 8:17-20; 9:4-6; Prov 3:5-6; Jn 1:16; Rom 4:6-9; 10:12; 1 Cor 9:23; Gal 3:8-14Eph 1:3; 1 Tim 6:1-19; Jam 1:17).

 

If you want to know the blessings of God, the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessings of the Christian gospel, the first thing you must do is admit that you have no claim at all upon them, that you do not deserve them, that actually you deserve nothing but punishment and hell.  If you are still trying to defend yourself, if you still feel that God has not been fair to you, that God is unkind to you or that God has kept something back from you, you are not a Christian; you are still in the position of rebellious Adam and Eve; you are in the position of the Pharisees. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, p. 91)

 

But, Charles Hodge so aptly said, “Christian humility does not consist in denying what there is of good in us; but in an abiding sense of ill-desert, and in the consciousness that what we have of good is due to the Grace of God.”  Humility, then, gives credit where credit is due, namely to the working of Holy Spirit in our lives. Pride, which is the opposite of humility, seeks to find within ourselves some innate goodness or even to ascribe to our own commitment or faithfulness the cause of any blessings of God in our lives. Pride might say, for example, “Because I have been faithful and obedient, God has blessed me”; whereas humility would say, “Because of God’s grace at work in me, I have been motivated and enabled to be faithful and obedient.” (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, p. 99)

 

The greatest motivation for purity is one’s desire for God Himself.  Sexual sins and impure thoughts are impediments to intimacy with God.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”(R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, p. 134)

 

The proclamation of false Jesuses has a particular grammar to it.  Life Coach Jesus says, if you are going to derive the benefits of law keeping, it’s all up to you.  The focus is on what you are doing.  You are the subject of all the verbs.  Movement Leader and Visionary Jesus say you must take the advice and get busy.  You must get on a mission and serve.  Checklist Jesus says you must be transformed.  You must discover your destiny.  You must obey the rules of the owner’s manual for life.  You must get that one thing in your life under control and then you’ll experience victory!  You must be a better wife or better husband.  A steady diet of this stuff produces what we’ve said all along: pride or despair.  It’s inevitable.  Pride when we have a checklist we’re able to complete and feel satisfied with.  Despair when we can’t seem to fit the mold.  As long as we’re alive, the law has an infinite number of tactics and they all whisper, You are not enough. . . . All the false Jesuses (Life Coach Jesus, Visionary Jesus, Movement Leader Jesus, and Checklist Jesus) are all singing a monotone law-lite chorus.  But often this monotone note casts a spell that keeps us from becoming completely dead.  Instead, we’re saddled up with demands to the point of death and placed on life support to hang on for dear life.  It would be more humane for a preacher to preach the full counsel of God, demand and law in its full undiluted, crushing form, and let that word put people out of their misery.  Instead, we get new checklists, and we’re put back on life support again.  It’s a vicious cycle. . . . In reality, God’s unbridled Law doesn’t wrap you up in a Snuggie of God’s love.  It picks you up by the scruff of the neck and kicks your butt all the way around the block.  God’s Law does not offer life; it bludgeons you.  It doesn’t offer comfort; it points an accusing, ten-foot bony finger in your face.  It wakes you up in the morning in a half-sleep state and gets you to wonder, My life is a mess.  Am I even a Christian?  The Law is merciless.  It doesn’t let you off the hook and give you a pat on the back; it judges your every move.  It doesn’t come to save, but to condemn and throw you in prison. . . . The point of all this doom-and-gloom talk about the Law is to tease out what the purpose of the Law truly is.  It kills.  It accuses.  It curses everything that is not in Christ.  And when it gets you good and dead, it has done its job properly.  Then it’s time for a completely different word: the word of the gospel.  (Matt Johnson, Getting Jesus Wrong, 88-89)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Live your life in the reality that we deserve nothing but enjoy God’s blessings from His loving hand.   The greatest blessing of all is God’s presence by means of God’s Spirit. (Mt 13:16; Lk 7:23; 10:23; Rev 19:9)

 

Martin Luther said, “Blessings at times comes to us through our labors and at times without our labors, but never because of our labors.  God always gives them because of His undeserved mercy.”  But there is more than that to a Christian Thanksgiving.  We are thankful because God owns it all and he delights in our using his stuff. (Steve Brown, Key Life Newsletter, November 2007)

 

Blessed are those, then, who hold their earthly possessions in open palms.  Blessed are those who, if everything they own were taken from them, would be, at most, inconvenienced, because their true wealth is elsewhere.  Blessed are those who are totally dependent upon Jesus for their joy.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 94)

 

Before the Lord can bring any of us into a new phase of His will, He must dismantle that “sense of attainment” which often accompanies our old relationship to His will.  It is a fact that many church movements, both in and out of denominations, began simply.  Hungry souls longed for, and found, more of God.  Over time, as their numbers grew, success replaced hunger; people grew more satisfied with God’s blessings than with His Presence.  There is a profound difference.  (Francis Frangipane, The Days of His Presence, 100)

 

The enemy does not appear with fierce countenance; he does not threaten us with retaliation if we begin to seek God.  Satan is far more subtle.  He manipulates the good things of God’s blessings to keep us from the best gift: God’s Presence.  (Francis Frangipane, The Days of His Presence, 121)

 

The blessed life begins when obsession with self ends.  — Pastor Keith

 

If I cry out against God because of a great loss, I have just revealed my idol; that thing or person he blessed me with, rather than He who blesses me.  — Buddy Briggs

 

Thomas Aquinas was asked on one occasion why there seem to be non-Christians who are searching for God, when the Bible says no one seeks after God in an unconverted state.  Aquinas replied that we see people all around us who are feverishly seeking for purpose in their lives, pursuing happiness, and looking for relief from guilt to silence the pangs of conscience.  We see people searching for the things that we know can be found only in Christ, but we make the gratuituous assumption that because they are seeking the benefits of God, they must therefore be seeking God.  That is the very dilemma of fallen creatures: we want the things that only God can give us, but we do not want him.  We want peace but not the Prince of Peace.  We want purpose but not the sovereign purposes decreed by God.  We want meaning found in ourselves but not in his rule over us.  We see desperate people, and we assume they are seeking for God, but they are not seeking for God.  I know that because God says so.  No one seeks after God.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, p. 90)

 

Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has. (Billy Graham as quoted by Harold Myra; The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham p. 189)

 

“It is a striking saying of our Lord, ‘Every branch in Me that beareth fruit [my Father] purgeth it, that is may bring forth more fruit’ (John 15:2).  It is a melancholy fact, that constant temporal prosperity, as a general rule, is injurious to a believer’s soul.” (J. C. Ryle; Holiness, p. 94)

 

If we are poor in spirit it means we have been liberated from looking to find our blessedness in anything fickle, transient, or perishing; but instead, we look to find it in God alone.  — Pastor Keith

 

The first step in any spiritual awakening is demolition.  We cannot make headway in seeking God without first tearing down the accumulated junk in our souls.  Rationalizing has to cease.  We have to start seeing the sinful debris we hadn’t noticed before, which is what holds back the blessing of God.  (Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, p. 159)

 

“If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” (John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court)

 

A pastor once asked a prominent member of his congregation, “Whenever I see you, you’re always in a hurry.  Your wife tells me you’re always busy.  Tell me, where are you running all the time?”

The man answered, “I’m running after success, fulfillment, and the reward for all my hard work.”

The pastor responded, “That’s a good answer if you assume that all those blessings are somewhere ahead of you, trying to elude you, and that if you run fast enough, you might catch up with them.   But isn’t it possible that those blessings are behind you, looking for you, and that the more you run, the harder you make it for them to find you?”  (Bill Perkins, When Good Men are Tempted, 139-140)

 

Philip Yancy writes of a spiritual seeker who interrupted his busy, acquisitive life to spend a few days in a monastery.  “I hope your stay is a blessed one,” said the monk who showed him to his simple cell.  “If you need anything, let us know, and we’ll teach you how to live without it.”  (John Ortberg, When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box, 199)

 

So What?: God wants us to enjoy the abundant life.  But, He also knows that blessings can become curses apart from His presence.  Also, God’s greatest blessings may be in disguise. (Gen 50:20; Jer 17:5-7; Mt 5:3-11; 11:6; Lk 6:20-22, 28; 14:14-15; Rom 8:28; Jam 1:2-4, 12, 25; 1 Pt 3:14; 4:14 )

 

For if [a Christian] cannot thank and praise God as well in calamities and sufferings as in prosperity and happiness, he is as far from the piety of a Christian as he that only loves them that love him is from the charity of a Christian.  For to thank God only for such things as you like is no more a proper act of piety than to believe only what you see is an act of faith.

Resignation and thanksgiving to God are only acts of piety when they are acts of faith, trust, and confidence in the divine goodness.   (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, p. 321)

 

The Christian life is a broad road of happiness, joy, peace, blessing, success, significance, and contentment, which is ironically gained by choosing the narrow road of surrender, obedience, self-denial, self-sacrifice, truth, worship and service. (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, p. 185)

 

We’re too blessed to be depressed.

 

My biggest disappointments have often turned into my greatest blessings. —  Thomas Kincade

 

In Christ’s basic call to discipleship recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, he promised his followers life and victory and vindication ultimately when he comes with his holy angels (Mk 8:35-38).  Eternal prosperity is assured for faithful followers of God.  But the path to prosperity may be one of suffering and self-denial.  So before those promises Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34).  Then he said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (8:35).  It is always worthwhile and incomparably rewarding to live the life of obedience.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 593)

 

People in every society consistently seek the wrong things.  Some look for money, fame, and power.  But these things cannot satisfy us.  As Solzhenitsyn said about his time in a Soviet gulag, “Bless you, prison.  Bless you for being in my life, for there, lying on the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity, as we are made to believe, but the maturing of the human soul.”  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, p. 58)

 

As William Wilberforce once said, “Prosperity hardens the heart.”  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, p. 90)

 

There was a time (Moral Majority – Religious Right) when the church had money, power and prestige and we could use those things for the benefit of the Kingdom.  But, now, more and more we are having, less and less.  And that is bad.  NO that is good.  Cause now, the only thing we’ve got is to become like Jesus. (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3, The Gift of Powerlessness” 2 Chronicles 20)

 

The great ambition of the million is to be happy as animals, not to be blessed as “saved,” noble-spirited, sanctified men. (A. B. Bruce; The Training of the Twelve, p. 187)

 

“Plato in the Gorgias” insists that the wrongdoer. . . is worse off without punishment than with it–it would be as harmful for man not to receive judgment upon his sins as it is good for him to be rewarded for his virtue.  Jesus is equally outspoken, “They will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Mt 25:46).  “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time. . . and in the age to come eternal life” (Mk 10:29-30).  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 497)

 

Bernie Siegel, M.D., shocks his cancer patients when he asks them, “Why did you need this illness?”  He claims that our bodies break down to give us a message…and many times it is a message that we have been ignoring.  According to Dr. Siegel, while nobody wants to be ill, many patients say that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them.  They learned to appreciate life and to express their feelings to their loved ones.  They were able to pick up the paintbrush they previously had been too busy to hold.  Even illness can be a blessing. (Lauire Beth Jones; Jesus Ceo, Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, p. 48)

 

Ill that He blesses is our good and unblessed good is ill.  And all is right that seems most wrong if it be His sweet will.  — old hymn of the church

 

God uses difficult times to drive us to repentance.   Because of our wealth, we choose to insulate ourselves from many of the judgements that God gives to us to drive us to repentance.  Instead of being sensitive to God’s judgements in our lives that should soften our hearts and lead us to repentance, we merely protect ourselves from His discipline with more insurance, drugs, addictions, or by wallowing in materialism.  — Pastor Keith

 

“A guilty conscience is a great blessing but only if it drives us to come home.” (John R. W. Stott;  The Cross of Christ, p. 98).

 

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