Blessed to Be a Blessing
Passage: Genesis 1:26–1:28, Genesis 3:14–3:24, Genesis 12:1–12:3, Mark 1:14–1:15, Matthew 5:1–5:12, Matthew 28:18–28:20, John 20:21, Galatians 3:7–3:9, Revelation 5:9–5:10
We are blessed by God to be a blessing to the world.
I really enjoy a writer and speaker named Michael Hyatt. He happens to be a Christian, but his company helps people grow in productivity, focus, and goal-achievement. One of the barriers to growth and achievement that he has identified is called “limiting beliefs”. As he says it, “A limiting belief is a misunderstanding of the present that shortchanges our future” (Your Best Year Ever, 47). There are three kinds of limiting beliefs: a limiting belief about the world, a limiting belief about others, a limiting belief about ourselves. A limiting belief is an assumption that gives us a distorted view of the world, others, or ourselves (Your Best Year Ever, 38). A limiting belief about the world might be, “There’s no way to succeed in this economy.” A limiting belief about others might be, “They’re too busy to help me” or “They won’t be interested in what I have to say”. A limiting belief about yourself would be, “I’m just not good at this” or “That’s not the way I’m wired”.
These are similar to what people call a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe your intelligence and talents are fixed. You believe there are things you just aren’t good at and there’s no changing it. Either you are good at something or you aren’t. A growth mindset believes it’s possible to change. Failures, obstacles, and challenges are opportunities for growth. Instead of saying, “I’m not good at this” you would say, “I’m not good at this yet.”
Michael Hyatt connects limiting beliefs with a scarcity mentality vs an abundance mindset. A scarcity mindset sees a lack of resources. Things are getting smaller and running out and you don’t have enough so you need to keep what you have. With an abundance mindset, you see opportunity and possibility in everything. There’s plenty to go around. The most common way these two mindsets are portrayed is with a question: do you see the glass as half full or as half empty?
Right now we are in a sermon series laying out our growth theme and vision for 2022. The title for this series is “inviting others to surrender all of life to Jesus”. I want us to go on a journey together as a church where telling others about Jesus becomes an activity that feels natural and is an overflow of the thankfulness and joy we have because of him. I hope this will be a year of learning together, of growing together, of taking steps of faith together.
Each of the messages in this series are intertwined like the strands of a rope: they complement and reinforce one another. Last week we talked about how one of the most personal and powerful ways you can tell others about Jesus is to season your conversations with the difference he has had made in your life. This morning, we are going to focus on how we are blessed to be a blessing.
We started off thinking about limiting beliefs, a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset, and a scarcity vs an abundance mindset. Similarly, you can live believing you are blessed or believing you aren’t blessed. When you believe and feel you are blessed, what difference does that make in your attitude and actions?
The theme of “blessing” runs throughout the Bible. In fact, you can retell the whole story of the Bible using the theme of blessing. And that’s what we are going to do this morning: we are going to retell the whole story of the Bible by tracing the theme of blessing.
Blessed Creation, Blessed Image Bearers (Genesis 1-2)
Naturally, the story of blessing starts at the beginning. In Genesis 1 and 2, God creates a good world through his word and by his Spirit. The days of the week form the structure by which he does this. During the first three days, he forms the world. During the second three days, he fills the world. Five times we are told: “God saw that it was good” (1:4, 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, 1:21, 1:25). After creating humanity on the sixth day, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (1:31).
God made human beings in his image and likeness. Both man and woman were created in his image. Then Genesis 1:28 says:
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
Many call this the creation mandate, but you could also think of it as the first Great Commission - Great Commission 1.0. This is the original mission statement for humanity. As God’s image bearers, we reflect what he is like and represent him as his ambassadors. Our original job description was to love God, love each other, and take care of God’s creation by filling the earth. God blessed the first humans and sent them out on a mission. So here’s how the story of the Bible starts: “Once upon a time, we were blessed.”
Cursed Creation, Broken Image Bearers (Genesis 3)
But it all went horribly wrong in Genesis 3. A creature in rebellion against God came to Adam and Eve in the form of a serpent and deceived them. Adam and Eve turned from God. Instead of trusting in him, they trusted in themselves. Instead of living with God on the throne of their lives, they decided to define good and bad on their own terms. They decided they didn’t want a world where God was in charge. This turning from God led to brokenness - a broken relationship with God and a broken relationship with each other.
When God came to them in their shame, he revealed that their decision brought a curse upon everything: the creation was cursed because of themt, their relationship with each other was cursed, and their relationship with the creation was cursed. Adam and Eve were commissioned to reflect and represent God but instead they decided they wanted to be God.
Blessed to Be a Blessing (Genesis 12:1-3)
Genesis 3 through 11 records the spread of this curse. Humanity without God in charge are ruiners. A world without God in charge is ruined, broken, and cursed.
But in Genesis 12, God reveals his plan for restoration. We are introduced to a man named Abram who is later renamed Abraham. Let’s read Genesis 12:1-3:
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
God chose Abram. God chose to bless Abram. God chose to bless Abram so that Abram would be a blessing. God promised he would make Abram into a great nation and to bless that world through that nation. God’s plan was to bring blessing back to the world through Abram and his family.
Later, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. And Abraham had a son, Isaac. Then Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Then Jacob had twelve sons and those sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. Abraham’s family grew into the nation of Israel. God’s plan was to bless Israel so that they would be a blessing.
Abram and his family will be God’s channel of blessing to the world. Picture Israel as a pipe. On one end, God pours blessing in. On the other end, Israel pours blessing out. God blesses them so that they are a blessing. God gives to the world through them. Or picture a sponge: God soaks the sponge with blessing so that the sponge can squeeze out blessing on others. God set up a way to dwell among his people first through the tabernacle, which was like a tend, then through the temple. Israel was blessed by God’s presence.
The problem is that for the most part, Israel failed horribly. Like Adam and Eve, they continually turned from God and because they turned from God, they did not reflect or represent God and they failed to be a blessing to the world. Like Adam and Eve, they failed as God’s image bearers. If the pipe turns away from God, then it is no longer blessed by a relationship with God therefore it has nothing to bless the world with. If the sponge turns away from God, it is no longer filled with God to bless the world. If you are not blessed, you cannot be a blessing.
God sent messengers called prophets to call Israel back to God, but they didn’t listen. Through the prophets, God promised that he would one day raise up a human that wouldn’t turn from him. He would raise up an image bearer who would perfectly reflect who he is and represent his kingdom on earth. God would choose one person from the nation of Israel to be King who would lead the nation of Israel back to God, and not only the nation of Israel, but all nations.
Centuries later, a thirty-year-old Jewish man from the rural town of Nazareth came into the region of Galilee in Israel proclaiming the gospel of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Of course, this was Jesus. His message was simple but explosive: “Good news! The time we’ve all waited for is here! God’s kingdom is coming to earth! What the prophets foretold has come. Repent! Turn away from whatever you are trusting in and turn back to God! Believe this good news!”
Jesus taught with authority. He commanded demonic, unclean, evil spirits with authority. He had control over disease and death. He told the wind and the waves what to do and they listened. He healed people of their sicknesses and diseases. Through Jesus, people saw the reversal of the curse. What was broken was healed. What was wrong was made right. What was corrupted was cured. Through Jesus, the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the dead were raised, the lame could walk, the mute could speak. Jesus stepped into the chaos of the world and the chaos of people’s lives and he brought peace, freedom, and wholeness. Jesus brought release and restoration people. Jesus brought salvation. In other words, God was blessing the world through Jesus.
Jesus didn’t bring God’s blessing to the spiritual elite. He didn’t go to the religious clubhouses. Jesus didn’t try to become part of the in-crowd. Jesus came to free those who had been pushed down and to include those who had been pushed out. He went to the outsiders. He went to the hurting. He went to the rejected, the oppressed, the broken. He went to the worst sinners. He went to people who had made a complete mess of their lives. When asked about the kind of people he was hanging around with, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). Doctors don’t hang out with healthy people. Doctors spend their time with sick people. Jesus came as a doctor for people sick with sin. He came with love, compassion, grace, and mercy to a world cursed and broken to offer healing, wellness, and salvation.
Jesus redefined who is blessed. In his sermons, he made it clear that people who are successful, well-off, and popular here and now are not the blessed ones. That’s how the world measures blessedness. But in God’s kingdom, you are blessed if you turn from this world’s way of doing things and instead turn to God and live in sync with his kingdom and his ways.
Most importantly, Jesus came to give people what humanity had lost when Adam and Eve turned from God: a relationship with God, connection with God, the presence of God. The life found in knowing God was lost, but Jesus said, “I have been given authority to give eternal life” (Jn 17:2).
Jesus had a lot going for him. He helped many people. He had many followers. People believed he was the one the prophets had talked about. They believed he was the Messiah, the King, God’s chosen servant, who would deliver the nation of Israel. But then he died. He was rejected and killed by the very people he came to save. But his death was not a defeat; instead it was the means by which he would open a way for all humanity to come back to God. It wasn’t just that he was put to death by the people of Israel but that his death was for the people of Israel. But even bigger: he wasn’t just put to death by humanity but his death was for humanity. Jesus entered into and took upon himself the death that we deserve for turning from God and in paying the penalty in our place, makes a way for us to be forgiven and come back to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He was raised from the dead and is now enthroned at God’s side, proving that he really was who he claimed to be: the Son of God, the King of the kingdom of God, the God of Israel coming to his people in the flesh.
After his resurrection, Jesus commissioned his followers. In John 20:21 he says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” In Matthew 28:18-20, he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.” This is the new mission given to a new humanity. Those whom Jesus has blessed, he sends out to be a blessing to all nations. He sends us just as he was sent: to bring blessing back to the world.
Who Gets Blessed? (Galatians 3:7-9)
The apostle Paul, writing twenty years later, connects the proclamation of the gospel to this theme of blessing. In Galatians 3, he says that the gospel was announced to Abraham back in Genesis 12 as “blessing”: “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” The gospel is: God wants to bless you. God wants to return you to the blessing you were meant to live in. God wants to pull you back into the blessing of a relationship with him.
Who can get in on this blessing? What does it require? Paul is in complete agreement with Jesus about whom this good news is for. Jesus went to the poor, the broken, the beat up, the hurting. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Jesus came as a doctor to people cursed because of sin. You don’t have to clean up your life and get your act together to be blessed. You don’t have to be good enough. You don’t have to prove you deserve it. No, all you have to do is bring all your sin, mess, and brokenness to God and he will come into your life. Whatever is broken because of sin, he will heal.
The good news is this: “God blesses people who are completely undeserving of it; God blesses sinners, God blesses rebels, God blesses law-breakers, God blesses the ungodly, God blesses his enemies.” God pours out his favor on people who have done absolutely nothing to earn it or deserve it. That’s grace. All you have to do is receive it. The image Jesus uses of a doctor to describe what he came to do is very helpful for understanding his purpose: we are sick and we are healed in and by the doctor’s presence.
Blessing to All Nations (Revelation 5:9-10)
God said to Abraham, “In you shall all the nations be blessed” (Gen 12:3, Gal 3:8). God blesses the nations through Jesus, Abraham’s far-off great grandson. And Jesus sends his disciples whom he has blessed to bring blessing to the nations. And in Revelation 5, the song in heaven for Jesus shows that God’s plan is successful:
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
The blessed life is with God. The cursed life is without God. The blessed life has God. The cursed life lacks God. The Bible begins and ends with God dwelling among his people. In Genesis 1, it’s in a garden. In Revelation 21 and 22, it’s in a garden city. God’s blessing is his presence which comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. You could lose everything and you wouldn’t be any less blessed. You could gain everything and wouldn’t be any more blessed. Why? Because you have the one thing that matters most of all: God.
When I watch movies like The Lord of the Rings, I sometimes think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to be part of that? What an adventure!” The truth is, we are part of something much bigger and better than that. You are in a much bigger and better story than any movie or book. You are part of the history-changing, eternity-defining plan of God to restore humanity and his creation. The Christian life is bigger and better than: be a good person and go to church. We were made for so much more than that! What would change if you saw yourself swept up into and participating in God’s grand story of restoring humanity and this world? The God of the universe who controls all time and history has come into your life and pulled you into the greatest story ever told. Are you living in that story? Do you see yourself as a character in God’s grand plan and story?
We have been blessed to be a blessing. So here’s a question to ask yourself: Do you see yourself as blessed? Do you believe you are blessed? Do you feel blessed? Do you see yourself as having an abundance? Or do you live as if you have a scarcity, that you never have enough? Do you live as if God is holding out on you?
Adam and Eve entered into a cursed existence when they turned from God. And they turned from God because they stopped seeing God as a good, generous, gracious, and loving Father on whom they could fully rely to always do what was best for them. In other words, Adam and Eve stopped seeing themselves as blessed. They stopped seeing how God blessed them and they stopped believing they were blessed. We return to a life of blessing when we turn back to God. We return to a life of blessing when we see God as a good, generous, gracious, and loving Father on whom we can fully rely to always do what is best for us.
As I’ve observed the way Jesus acted in the gospels and what he taught, I’ve tried to see what beliefs undergirded his way of life and teachings. I think one way to sum up what Jesus believed is: “God’s got this. God’s got me.” Jesus had total faith in his heavenly Father. A cursed way to live is to believe, “It’s all about me”; “It’s all up to me.” I’ve noticed that the more I focus on what is missing, what I don’t have, what I lack, what is wrong, what is not how it should be or how I want it to be, the more angry and anxious I become.
You can count your blessings on a spiritual level: Do you believe you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3)? We have the same spiritual blessings as Jesus: righteous, blameless, child of God, God’s presence, God loves us and even likes us, looking forward to receiving our inheritance of eternity with God in a new creation.
You can also count your blessings on a physical level, thanking God for all the physical blessings in your life: job, car, house, food, clothes, shoes, heat, running water, refrigerator, your body, and so forth.
You can count your blessings using time: 1) In the past, how has God blessed me? 2) In the present, how is God blessing me? 3) In the future, how will God bless me?
I read a book last year called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The book is about her experience of accepting a challenge that a friend gave her: make a list of 1,000 gifts in her life - 1,000 things to be thankful for. It’s a challenge that forces you to see the ways you’ve been blessed and to actually receive the many gifts God has and is giving you. The journey changed her life. It made her into a different person.
I started my list in August last year after reading the book. From mid August to December, a three and a half month period, I got up to 100 gifts I saw in my life. This year, my goal is to make it to 1,000. If you break that down, it requires writing about 3 things a day that I see as a gift. I want to invite you to do this challenge with me: this year, make a list of 1,000 gifts from God in your life.
Here are the things I wrote down this morning:
- Our windshield fluid working without me having to fix it.
- Snuggling with Hudson before putting him to bed after he fell asleep in the car
- My ESV Study Bible
- The Harry Potter illustrated books
- The seminary education I received
There’s a reason that expressing gratitude and thanksgiving are almost synonyms with worship in the Bible. Ann Voskamp writes, “When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His great debt, then doesn't all become gift?” (One Thousand Gifts, 94). In November, my spiritual director, Bill, preached here. Bill tries to see all of life as gift - everything and anything.
When we count everything as gift, it means we are acknowledging that someone gave it to us. It lifts our hearts up to God in thanksgiving. Ultimately, our joy is not in what we have been given but in who gave it. Ann Voskamp makes the point that because thankfulness is always possible, joy is always possible. Some people say that gratitude is the on-ramp to joy. The key to joy is gratitude. The key to gratitude is receiving all of life as gift. Each day is filled with gifts to be unwrapped. This is about a perspective shift, seeing everything as a gift.
God intends for us to live a “to us, through us” life. We are a channel of his blessing to a cursed world. What does it mean to be chosen by God? What does it mean to be God’s people? What does it mean to be God’s family? What does it mean to be God’s church? What makes us different from every other group in the world?
God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing. Jesus has made a difference in us so that we can make a difference. You were made for this. You have been saved for this. You were made to be loved by God then to love God and love others in response. Think of it this way: “We are not in the world for God; instead we are in God for the world.” This is how Jesus lived his life. Jesus could live the way he did in the world because he knew the heart of the Father toward him. He was in God for the world.
Each of us is a sponge which God intends to fill up so we can squeeze out. As a church, we are a sponge that God intends to fill up so we can squeeze out. If you are having a hard time blessing people, it is perhaps because you have blessing amnesia where you have forgotten how much God has blessed you or you have blessing blindness where you don’t see how much God has blessed you. Blessed people bless people. Loved people love people Forgiven people forgive people. People who have been shown compassion show compassion. People who have received patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control give patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.