With Every Blessing

When the body has need, the Lord is faithful to provide.

Maybe you can picture it: Jesus Christ ascending into heaven. Perhaps you’ve imagined who was there and how they reacted. Though most Christians have heard the story numerous times, one part often gets overlooked: the Lord’s final words. Although the book of Matthew recounts the last thing Jesus said as being the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples, Luke’s gospel gives an additional detail: “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).

 

Jesus’ last act before returning to His Father was to bless those first members of His church. In fact, everything about the church is the result of God’s grace. Sometimes we think of grace as simply the way we are saved, but it’s actually the means by which we exist as God’s people. The church was founded by grace, is kept by grace, and will reach its culmination by the grace of God. From beginning to end, the church has been showered with blessings and gifts from the Lord.

 

The Gift of the Cross

The cross is the only means by which we can be saved and become a part of Christ’s church. When Jesus hung there with hands and feet pierced by nails, a divine exchange took place: “He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His life for our life—the gift of a God who, in humility, chose to live as a human being and die at the hands of His creation, that we might no longer be estranged from Him.

He has set us free. As a result of that loving gift, forgive­ness of sins and the righteousness of Christ are given to everyone who repents and believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord. The One who made us—and who has lovingly sustained us even as we have lived apart from Him—has opened heaven to us. Of course, a person can refuse that gift. But all who do will one day be required to stand before Him and offer an account for why they turned away from His love. In that moment, they’ll receive God’s righteous judgment, the truth of their hearts revealed. The cross is the only hope of salvation—it is the only way to be united with Jesus and live with Him for all eternity.

The One who made us—and who has lovingly sustained us even as we have lived apart from Him—has opened heaven to us.

The cross of Christ also gives us victory over sin. For those of us who have been saved, there is another blessing that comes through the cross. When Jesus was crucified, we were so closely identified with Him that we died with Him: “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:6). The person we were before salvation—what the apostle Paul calls “our old self”—has died, and we have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). This new life is actually Christ’s life lived in us through the Holy Spirit, who now indwells our physical bodies.

God didn’t save us and then leave us to struggle through life as best we could. We have His presence and power in us through His Spirit. Because of the cross, we never walk through trials and temptations alone but can overcome through Christ and live in triumph rather than in continual defeat.

 

The Gifts of the Spirit

God’s gracious blessings to the church include spiritual gifts that ensure the body of Christ can grow and build itself up in love. Spiritual gifts are divine abilities that equip us to serve the Lord effectively. Although they’re given to each believer individually, they are for the common good of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7). As we work together according to each one’s unique giftedness, the church benefits and we experience the joy that comes from obediently serving the Lord.

Although spiritual gifts are given to each believer individually, they are for the common good of the church.

Therefore, we each need to discover our spiritual gifts and begin using them to accomplish what the Lord created us to do. Being a good steward of our gifts requires more than sitting in a church pew on Sundays. No matter how little we think we have to offer, God wants us to make ourselves available for service. Instead of using our difficult backgrounds, inadequacies, or past failures as excuses, we should do our best and trust the Lord to work through us.

 

The Gifts for the Church

God has also given other blessings to the church as His corporate body. We as His people can boast of nothing, nor can a church accomplish anything apart from His supernatural enablement. Everything a church needs is provided by its head, Jesus Christ:

  • Gifted Leaders. After His ascension, Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the saints to serve and grow in maturity (Eph. 4:11-13). The apostles and prophets recorded the divine revelation that we now have in the New Testament, and evangelists and pastor-teachers continue the work of building up the body of Christ.

  • God’s Word. Scripture says the church becomes “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). That’s why the preaching of the Word is a top priority for pastors. It’s also the reason that God’s people should strive to live Christ’s life at all times, with all love and humility, in their communities: so that the truth would be evident (Matt. 5:14-16).

  • We as His people can boast of nothing, nor can a church accomplish anything apart from God's supernatural enablement.

  • Fellowship. Those in Christ have a connection with each other that transcends every societal barrier (Gal. 3:26-28). Our commonality is the Lord Himself, who binds us together in love.

  • Prayer. Before His crucifixion, Jesus promised the disciples that He would provide whatever they asked in His name (John 14:13-14).

  • Ordinances. Jesus left His church two ordinances as reminders. Baptism symbolizes our salvation, when we died to sin and were raised to life in Christ (Rom. 6:4), and the Lord’s Supper helps us recall His death and anticipate His return (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).

All these magnificent gifts should motivate us to worship our Lord, who has abundantly supplied His church with every spiritual blessing. Because of His goodness, we want for nothing. Therefore it’s our privilege to walk humbly with Him, serve Him joyfully, and freely share with the world the message of salvation in Christ.

 

Reflect

The Cross: Scripture clearly teaches that we are so intimately connected to Christ through salvation that we have died with Him—our old self was crucified, yet we still struggle with sin. And in the same way, we are declared righteous, but we know our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions are not always godly. Paul described this struggle in Romans 7:15-25.

We are so intimately connected to Christ through salvation that we have died with Him—our old self was crucified.

  • How do you identify with this scenario?
  • What particular sins seem to take over, even though you hate them?
  • How does knowing your position in Christ help you stand firm against sin?

     

Spiritual Gifts: The gifts of the Spirit are listed in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, and Ephesians 4:11-12.

  • Which of these gifts do you think you may have? How are you using it (or them)?
  • If these gifts are necessary for the common good, what do you think happens when some church members don’t use their gifts?
  • Imagine what your church would be like if all members were serving in their areas of giftedness.

Gifts for the Church: Review the list of gifts Christ gives to the church. What do these blessings reveal about His love and care for His body? What needs of yours are met by Christ through these wonderful gifts?

 

Pray

Father, thank You that Your grace appeared at the cross of Christ, bringing me salvation. Now I ask that You continue Your gracious work in me by training me to deny ungodliness and worldly desire and to live righteously in this present age. Help me grow in love for Christ and His people, and may Your grace flow through me as I serve them by using my spiritual gift. I ask this in Jesus’ name and for Your glory. Amen.

 

Meditate

  • The Cross: Romans 6:1-23; Colossians 2:9-15; Colossians 3:1-17
  • Spiritual Gifts: 1 Peter 4:10-11
  • Gifts for the Church: Acts 2:41-47

     

 

Practice

If you feel as if you are losing the battle against sin despite the fact that the Bible says you have died to it, try praying scriptures like Ephesians 4:22-32 or Colossians 3:1-17, both of which affirm what God desires for you. Any time you offer prayers according to His will, you can be confident that He will answer (1 John 5:14-15).

Are you uncertain what your gifts are? If so, compare how you respond to situations or needs with the list in Romans 12:6-8. But also remember that gifts are discovered as you jump in and serve. Often, other people can help you discern your specific areas of giftedness.

 

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Related Topics:  Christian Fellowship

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50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.

51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;

15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.

17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.

22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,

23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;

8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;

9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?

2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?

4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,

6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,

9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.

10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,

13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!

16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,

18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.

22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;

12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,

7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.

8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,

10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--

11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;

45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.

26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.

29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;

8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

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