by Abraham Cremeens
God is generous and gracious to bless his people. But how do we receive and enjoy his blessings? I’ve touched on this on occasion from the pulpit but would like to spell out a brief theology of blessing below.
All God’s blessings come by grace.
We don’t “earn” God’s blessing as if our obedience is the coin inserted into the blessing machine. We are never in a position to leverage anything from God. Yet, I (and a lot of Christians) still seem to operate on a works-based Christian life. We know we entered God’s kingdom by faith alone in Christ alone, but somehow our Christian life becomes dependent on us alone. We must always guard against a “saved by grace but live by works” mentality that seeps in all too often. Otherwise, the gospel is replaced with the message that you just need to try harder.
In his book The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges calls out the error of what he labels good day/bad day thinking. In such a mindset, Christians function as if God will bless them based on how well they obeyed any given day, or God will withdraw his blessing based on disobedience. It is an earning mindset. For instance, I might think my next sermon will only be “blessed” in proportion to my obedience the previous week.
But Bridges rightly asks the question, “How good is good enough?” When it comes to our salvation, we are quick to cite Isaiah 64:6,
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We know there is no “good enough” when it comes to entering a relationship with God. But now that we are Christians, we often seem to think it depends on us to earn blessings from God based on our good days. But we cannot earn blessings. Why?
Christ alone bore our curse and purchased every blessing we will ever receive.
To live the Christian life by performance is to subject ourselves to the law. However, we died to the law in Christ. Christian law-based living doesn’t work. According to Galatians 3:13-14, Christ took the curse in our place and paid for the blessing (and all blessings) for us…
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Consider Ephesians 1:3 as well:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Therefore, every blessing we receive in this life and the next is purely by grace in Jesus Christ and received by faith alone in Christ alone. Now, God does command obedience and holds us accountable for it. In love, he is ready to discipline unrepentant sin in our lives (which is simply another form of his blessing). He also highlights the role of good works that his people should pursue. But that is to be done with grace as the foundation. This is not to mention that our obedience is all by grace anyway, as Philippians 2:12-13 reminds us:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
It is easy to shift from obedience that depends on God’s grace to obedience that aims to earn God’s grace. Does our grace-driven obedience play any role? Absolutely.
We cannot earn God’s blessing by our obedience, but we can experience it by our obedience through the grace and energy he provides.
In general (and Ecclesiastes taught us there are exceptions), my marriage, parenting, work-life, friendships, etc. will go better (or I will experience God’s blessing) as I do life God’s way. My parenting is healthier because I aim to be Christlike (by the grace God provides) in how I love my boys. But I haven’t earned any blessing and there are no guaranteed outcomes. At the end of my life, I won’t be able to say God blessed my family because of how I parented. I will only be able to say God blessed my family because God blessed my family.
I like to think of it through the lenses of Zacchaeus. He postured himself to experience Christ and the blessings that came through Christ when he climbed the tree and Jesus encountered him. My obedience is a choice to posture myself to take full advantage of the blessings Christ has purchased for me. And, my disobedience is also a choice not to posture myself to experience God’s blessing, although he often trumps our choices in blessing us even in our messiest moments. That is not an excuse to abuse God’s grace. We have all seen lives fall apart with poor choices. But it does call us to that grace-driven obedient life for the glory of God and our own good.
So, if you are a Christian by faith alone in Christ alone, you are blessed. You did nothing to earn it. It is a gift. Enjoy it. Posture yourself every day with a heart of gratitude and obedience to experience that already-purchased blessing. God is glorified in it and wants you to enjoy the blessings he provides. Rest well, Christian. You are blessed.