I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. (Psalm 34:1-2)
One Bible study teacher taped a large piece of paper on the board and made a black dot in the center with a marking pen. Then he asked the learners what they saw. Several quickly replied, “A black mark.” The teacher said: “Right. What else do you see?” Everyone was silent. Then the speaker said, “You have overlooked the most important thing—the sheet of paper.” And he made the application that in life we are often distracted by dot-like disappointments and painful experiences. Sometimes our trials and troubles are huge, not little dots. But rather than concentrating only on the burdens in life, we must remember God as our Creator, Upholder, Lord, and Savior.
Focus on Our Blessings in Jesus
Last time we looked at some benefits Christians receive as described in Ephesians chapter 1. Remember, Paul was in prison when he wrote that letter, so he had to practice heavenly-mindedness just like we do. We continue this study, using Scriptures and quotations. Jesus’ followers can praise God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and help others to praise Him no matter how bad our circumstances are.
Praise God: He Gives Us Grace and Favor in His Beloved Son (Ephesians 1:6)
Jesus said, “You (plural) are in me, and I am in you.”1 This is the Bible truth of “union with Christ,” the relationship and connection between believers and our Lord. The expression “in Christ” (or some variant) occurs 216 times in Paul’s letters and often in John’s writings. It’s the central truth of our salvation, the clue to understanding all the blessings we have in Jesus. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Believers identify with Jesus in His death and resurrection, leaving our old life behind and sharing in Jesus’ resurrection life now.
Christ is God’s indescribable, inexpressible free Gift to His people, precious beyond words! Since God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, the Father will along with Christ, graciously give us all things.2 Jesus is the vine and we are the branches who live connected to Him.3 He is the Head, and we are His Body (the Church). He is the Bridegroom and we are His Bride (the Church).4
God the Father is well pleased with His Son, happy and delighted with Jesus. And God is well pleased, happy, and delighted with us who believe on and belong to Christ. What could more comforting and reassuring?
Praise God: We Are Ransomed and Redeemed Through Jesus’ Blood and Forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
Christ said: I did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.5 In Bible times, a ransom involved the payment of a price to secure the release of a prisoner of war, a slave, or a person under the death sentence. Jesus said: “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin…So when the Son of God sets you free, you will be free indeed.”6 Jesus blood’ represents His death, the ransom price He paid to buy us back for God. Christians are released from our slavery to sin and brought into the freedom of forgiveness and right-standing with God.
Remember, Christ is fully God and fully human in one person. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas and all year long. Jesus’ humanity made it possible for Him to sacrifice Himself in our place to pay our debt to God. And His deity made His death on the cross for us infinitely valuable. Christ’s followers will never be condemned!7 Now we are freed from sin to serve God forever. “Liberty is not the same as license. To be free is not to be free and easy. Christians are not free to please ourselves but to please God.”8
What Are We Worth?
In the year 75 BC, a young Roman nobleman named Julius Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held for ransom. According to Plutarch, the pirates demanded 20 talents of silver (worth about $600,000 now). Caesar arrogantly said that his captors should raise the ransom to 50 talents because he believed he was so valuable.9
What ransom did God pay to save us? Jesus’ apostle Peter wrote: You were not redeemed with perishable things such as silver or gold from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors. You were ransomed with the precious blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!10
You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
Remember, Christians, our worth is not measured by what others think or say about us or how they treat us. Our worth is best measured by what God paid to redeem us. Jesus’ followers are precious to Him and honored in His sight because He loves us with His everlasting love.11 With this wonderful security in Christ, let us devote ourselves to serving Him. “Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Notes (various translations): 1 John 14:20. 2 Rom 8:32. 3 John 15:1-6. 4 Eph 5:23-32. 5 Mark 10:45. 6 John 8:34-36. 7 See all of Romans chapter 8. 8 John Blanchard. 9 britannica.com. 10 1 Peter 1:18-19 combined with John 1:29. 11 Isaiah 43:3; Jer 31:3.