Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.Ephesians 1:3
Our world seems to have a love/hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. Some of us love to make them, even knowing that we will break them. Others of us think they are a waste of time. I tend to be one of those who likes to make a New Year’s resolution. Even if I know that my resolution may not last the year. There is something that I like about beginning a new calendar-year by resolving to better myself this time around. And, when I fail, there is something humbling about that, that I think can be helpful.
Perhaps you are one of those who doesn’t find New Year’s Resolutions helpful. Or perhaps you do. Either way, I would still like to suggest that you begin this new year not simply with resolutions, but with blessings. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Ephesians that we have all been blessed, “in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” That’s a good way to start the year, don’t you think? By reminding ourselves that we are already blessed, in Jesus Christ, with every spiritual blessing? We begin the year by remembering our blessings.
Often, when you think about it, New Year’s Resolutions focus on something negative in our life. We are unorganized. We need to lose weight. We want to quit a bad habit. Taking Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians as a guide, we are encouraged to begin by focusing on the positive. We are invited to begin the year by remembering the blessings that we have already received in Christ. For we have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing.
Now, you might ask: What does it mean to blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing? In the words that follow this statement (Ephesians 1:3-14), Paul identifies five ways, by my count, that we are blessed in Christ. Here they are.
First, Paul tells us that we are blessed in Christ because we have been chosen “in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Think about that. You and I have been chosen in Christ. Even before we chose God, God chose us, in Christ. We who are baptized into Christ have been chosen in Christ. Before we make any resolutions, God has already chosen us. We don’t have to earn this. It is given to us freely, in Christ. That’s a wonderful blessing, isn’t it?
Second, Paul tells us that we are not only chosen in Christ – we have a destiny: And it is for adoption as God’s children through Jesus Christ. That is our destiny. And it is God’s wonderful gift to us. And again, it is not something we earn or work toward. It is given to us simply because God chooses to give it to us.
The third blessing that Paul reminds us of is that we have “redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” This is an encouraging word as we begin a new year together, isn’t it? That even if we don’t get it all right, we can count on being forgiven? We may not keep our resolutions; we may not better our lives; we certainly won’t live perfectly this year; we will make mistakes; we will sin. But, in Christ, we have redemption and forgiveness. What a blessing!
The fourth way that we begin this year blessed in Christ is found in verse 9 of this passage: [God] “has made known to us the mystery of his will.” We often take this one for granted, I suppose. But think about it: We don’t have to guess at what God wants from us. God has told us. We have God’s Word, the Bible, to guide us. God is very clear about how we are to live. Maybe not in all the details. But, big-picture-wise, God could not be more clear. And that’s a blessing.
And, finally, the fifth way that we are blessed in Christ is found in Verse 11, when we are told that “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance.” Not just chosen, destined for adoption, forgiven, and told the mystery of God’s will; we are also promised an inheritance. And it is no less than eternal life with our Lord and our God. There is no greater inheritance possible. And we have already been promised it. In fact, we have already obtained it in Christ. Another wonderful blessing!
So, before we even make any resolutions to better ourselves, we are reminded that we begin this year chosen by God, with our destiny is secure in Christ, and with an awesome inheritance promised to us. I don’t know about you, but in a very uncertain world, I find these to be comforting promises. Because they don’t depend on the uncertainties of our world, or of our lives. They depend on God, and so they are certainties. They are done simply for the good pleasure of God’s will. A gift given to us which we did not earn. Freely given, in love.
So how can we thank God for this gift? Again, Paul provides an answer for us, in this same passage from Ephesians. Paul tells us in Verse 12 that we who have set our hope on Christ can now live for the praise of his glory.
So that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.Ephesians 1:12
The best way to respond to these freely-given gifts is by living for the praise of God’s glory. We can resolve to spend this year glorifying God. Now, I know that this sounds a little vague. It is not as specific as losing 10 pounds, or quitting smoking. But Paul will actually get very specific later in this Letter to the Ephesians. (And a good resolution might just be to read the rest of this letter!) For now, he is simply challenging us to devote our lives to glorifying God. How can we do any less, considering all the ways that God has blessed us?
I like this challenge, as we begin a new year together, because it turns any resolutions that we make from being about us to being about God. They aren’t selfish, or self-centered, when we think about them in this way. They are selfless, and God-centered. They are ways to bring glory to God in our life. Which is, itself, a way to respond to the blessings that God has given to us in Jesus Christ.
Each and every one of us has been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Are there any more hopeful words as we begin this year together? We begin this year – as we begin every year – in Christ: Chosen, destined, forgiven, with an inheritance promised to each of us.
We begin this year with blessings, and not just resolutions. What a wonderful gift! And what better way to give thanks for this gift than living for the praise of God’s glory! May God be glorified and praised by us all in this new year!