How do we show and tell the good news about Jesus? By living a BLESS lifestyle.
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)
From the hashtag on social media (#blessed) to t-shirts that simply say "Blessed", the word has become popular in our culture. It's also a popular word in the Bible. It's used to praise God: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:3). It's used to describe people's condition: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:3). The Bible begins (Gen 1:28) and ends (Rev 22:14) with God blessing human beings. A blessed life is one in relationship with God (Ps 1). Jesus came to bring us back into a relationship with God (Jn 14:6) - to seek and to save those who are lost, wandering in spiritual darkness away from God. Because of Jesus, we can live a blessed life - a life with God.
Blessed to be a blessing
"Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." (Genesis 12:1-2)
In the beginning of everything, God blessed the first humans and gave them a mission to be his representatives in the world (Gen 1:28). When humanity decided to turn from God, it brought a curse upon the world and everything in it (Gen 3:14-19). Then God chose to bless one man, Abraham, and his family, the nation of Israel, and gave them the mission of bringing blessing back into this world (Gen 12:1-3). The problem was that they also turned from God and so they failed to be his representatives. Then God sent his Son, Jesus, to be the channel of his blessing to the world by taking the curse upon himself to free us from it (Gal 3:10-14). After his death under the curse, Jesus was raised to life, blessed his disciples, and gave them a mission: go and make more disciples (Matt 28:18-20). Those who surrender to Jesus have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3). We have been rescued, made right with God, forgiven, adopted in love as his sons and daughters, sealed with love by his Holy Spirit, and we look forward to our future inheritance of a new creation free of the curse. With that blessing, God sends us into the world to be a blessing to others, showing and telling the world what our God is like.
"The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'" (Luke 7:34)
Jesus had a spiritual, relational, and missional lifestyle. Some have said that Jesus had three great "loves": love for God, love for his community of followers, love for the world. The acronym "BLESS" is used today as a way to describe Jesus' intentional lifestyle - the way he loved God and others. In the stories of Jesus' life, you can see him:
- Begin with prayer
- Listen with care
- Eat together
- Serve in love
- Share good news
Jesus was called a friend of sinners because of this BLESS lifestyle. He came to BLESS sinners. Jesus blesses us by doing each of these with us and then he sends us out to bless others as he has blessed us. We will explore how Jesus does each of these with us and then how he sends us out to do the same. Reflect on how Jesus is a friend of sinners, which means he is a friend to each one of us. That's good news!
The B in BLESS: Begin with Prayer.
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." (John 6:44)
"You did not choose me, but I chose you..." (John 15:16)
Jesus lived with a deep awareness of God's presence, activity, and availability. In fact, Jesus was so aware of this that he claimed to do nothing except what he saw his heavenly Father doing (John 5:19-20). When Jesus died, he was confident he'd done the work that God gave him to do (John 17:4) and then he prayed for those disciples in the room with him and then, amazingly, he prayed for us who would come to believe centuries later. Long before we came to place our trust in Jesus, he was praying for us. And we only chose him because he chose us. A "blessed to be a blessing" lifestyle must Begin with Prayer because in prayer, we come before the God who is active in the world and available to us. We rely on him to do the "heavy lifting" in someone's life by drawing them to surrender their life to Jesus. Like Jesus, we pray: "Father, where are you already at work and how can I join you?" We follow his lead. We cannot do every good thing there is to do. But we can do the good things that God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
The L in BLESS: Listen with care.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Listening is one of the best and easiest ways to care for others. Being listened to is therapeutic, which explains the popularity of paying therapists to have someone who will listen with care. Often, we are too busy to stop to listen or we don't listen well because we are too focused on what we want to say. Throughout Jesus' days on earth, he listened to many people who came to him with their pain and problems. Even now, we are encouraged to come to him with our needs because he is able to sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:14-16). The Psalms invite us to come to God with our feelings, desires, pain and problems, disappointment and distress. If we were to describe what God is like, we would not be wrong in saying, "God is a good listener." God blesses us by listening to us with care then he sends us to bless others by listening with care to them. You will never out-listen God - he will have always listened way more to you than you have to anyone else.
The E in BLESS: Eat (or Enjoy time) together.
And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with him. (Luke 5:29)
It's been said that in Luke 19:10, Jesus states his mission: the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Then in Luke 7:34 he states his method for accomplishing that mission: the Son of Man came eating and drinking. In other words, Jesus seeks and saves the lost by eating and drinking with them, hanging out with them, enjoying time together with them. Jesus took the time to just be with people who are far from God. He blessed people by entering their homes, eating and drinking with them, hanging out with them and their friends. Jesus was a friend of sinners. Isn't it good news that Jesus befriends sinners? That's good news because it means Jesus befriends us - he enters our lives to be with us and enjoy time together with us. Jesus welcomes us. And now, we welcome one another as Jesus has welcomed us (Romans 15:7), showing hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9). Jesus blessed us by befriending us when we were far from God. Now he sends us as the Father sent him (John 20:21) - to befriend people far from God. Would people accuse you of being a friend of sinners like Jesus was?
The first S in BLESS: Serve in love.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus... (Philippians 2:3-5)
Jesus encountered many people who needed help. Sometimes, Jesus' disciples tried to keep people from bothering him (Mk 10:47-48, 10:13). But Jesus made himself available to people. In the narratives of his life, the feeling he's most often described as having is compassion. When Jesus saw people hurting and in need, he felt for them - his heart went out to them (Matt 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34). He made himself available to help people and moved toward them in their distress. It's easy for us to become so concerned about what's going on with us that we rarely stop to care about what someone else has going on with them. But Jesus is open to the needs, problems, and pain of others, including ours. He practiced the discipline of interruptibility, allowing others to interrupt his day and his schedule. He had open eyes to see needs, an open heart to care, and open hands to serve with what resources he had. What resources (time, skills, money, things) has God given you that you can share with others? Parents often are teaching their children to share. As God's children, we can imitate the generosity of our loving Father by sharing what we have with others. That's really what love is: using your resources for another person's benefit.
The second S in BLESS: Share good news.
"Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." (Luke 8:39)
You don't have to look very hard for bad news - it's common and easy to come by. This makes good news that much more precious and valuable. Jesus came with a message of good news: God's kingdom is coming to town. Where Jesus went, he would show people what God's kingdom is like by Listening with care, Eating with them, and Serving in love. He would also tell people what God's kingdom is like by Sharing the good news that God is making all things new, releasing us from darkness, disease, and death and restoring us to wholeness. Jesus invited people to turn from their other sources of hope and turn to him. If you have surrendered to Jesus, you are a new creation. God has begun in you what he will do for the whole creation. This is the good news we have to share: the good news of who Jesus is and the personal good news of what he has done in our lives. Jesus sends us to where we live, work, learn, and play as his messengers of good news in a world full of bad news. How can you share the good news of what God has done for you? Who would you be without Jesus? Share the difference Jesus has made in your life. You have an eyewitness testimony of the grace, love, power, and goodness of Jesus.
Believers BLESS one another.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
If the BLESS practices describe how Jesus was seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10) and if God sends us as he sent Jesus (John 20:21), then these practices describe a lifestyle by which we join Jesus on his mission. At the same time, if the BLESS practices describe how Jesus loved people, then they also describe how Jesus' followers ought to love one another in imitation of him. Jesus blessed us to be a blessing and that includes believers blessing one another. As followers of Jesus, we ought to Be in prayer for one another, Listen with care to one another, Eat with one another, Serve one another in love, and Share the good news about Jesus with one another. We are blessed by Jesus through fellow followers of Jesus. When the world looks at the church, they ought to see a community filled with the love of Jesus. How can you bless a fellow follower of Jesus this week through one of the BLESS practices?