God is always looking at us with love, pursuing us, and inviting us into lives aligned with Him. What do our responses to Him look like? What would it look like for God’s people to live in ongoing, continual affirmative response to Him?
Hi, it’s always a pleasure and an honor to speak to the family at Cornerstone. And like always, it’s been my tradition over the past years to give update about myself. First is, two updates. First, I’m, uh, increased my medical treatment. I’m uh, older now I got to take care of myself. I have psoriasis and now I soak my hands in dead sea salt. Uh, try to do it every day.
And it’s sort of been helping out it’s very high in mineral content. Okay. So it sort of calms down the skin. The second thing that kind of important to me, it’s also, health-related, I’m getting my Medona booster vaccination, uh, at CVS, this coming, this Monday. Okay. You could pray for me that I don’t get some wild reaction.
Um, then I think it’ll be okay, but you never know, you never know. Now, I love the theme that Pastor Terry has, uh, for this season. It was the way of blessing. It’s about blessing and it’s very complicated, actually biblically, because in society we have certain, uh, perceptions of blessing. Blessing is usually something that you’ve experienced or something that you have.
Okay. Let’s say you win the lottery, Powerball. I uh, to me what they think that’s a blessing, you know? It’s, it’s a tangible, you know, it’s a tangible thing. You get the job, that, of your dreams, your sport team wins, and you’re happy, something has to happen, or something has to be experienced in real time or possession. It’s material.
But blessing can also be that, which we would wish to happen. Okay. You sneeze, someone says, bless you. Okay. Sort of like the counteract to sort of, uh, the cold you’re getting. What do you wish? You hear? Here’s here’s here’s the questions I would say in our understanding of blessing. Fill in the blank. I am blessed because, okay.
I am blessed because, that’s a tangible thing, okay? That you possess, or I am blessed when; it doesn’t happen, but it’s something we wished to happen. Now. That’s a sort of very common and I think the predominant understanding of blessing amongst people in America. Okay. But what makes this sermon difficult is it’s talking about biblical blessing and biblical blessing expands the Western understanding of blessed.
It includes the Western understanding of blessing, includes that, which is tangible. And it includes that, which happens to myself that which desires to happen to myself, but it is much more expansive and much more, I guess, influential of all aspects of our lives then we usually suspect. What makes it difficult when we understand biblical blessing is that there are actually two different terms for blessing.
There’s one, uh, eu -logia, it means really to give praise or to proclaim that something good has happened. Uh, that’s the tangible aspect of blessing, but there’s another word for blessing. That’s a little bit different. Okay. And that’s found in the sermon on the Mount and that’s that word? Uh, uh, Ma
-karios is not the tangible, it is the intangible perception of what you think is a blessing. And when you understand both of these concepts, that which has tangible material, real, that which you possess or real time experience, with the perception of blessing, which may or may not be what you think blessing is, then you have a fuller understanding of biblical blessing.
Now, the way of blessing in the Bible is not only expansive in these two kinds of understanding, both intangible and intangible, the material possession, but also the experience and feeling, the intangible. Blessings in scriptures also is expansive because it has different sort of spheres of blessing, blessing.
All we’ve been ah doing with these sermons, the blessing to God. To others, to yourself. And then I have a fourth point of radical blessing, which explodes our mind because it winds it in ways we can never imagine. So this is quite a complicated message. So I’m trying to make it as simple as possible with enough application and illustrations for you to understand.
But I think you are going to be spiritually uplifted as a result, as I was in studying this concept of blessing, we’re going to do it through one book of the Bible. And we’re going to look at the usage of these two terms. Eu -logia and Makarios from the book of first Peter, there are five usages.
Okay. And they break down in my observation into these four spheres to God, to others, to yourself. And then. Understanding of blessing first blessing as a relates to God. Now, this is a very interesting thing because you’d say, why does God need to be blessed? What does that mean? We do something for God. Uh, no, no, no, no.
This is a tangible blessing. God doesn’t need to wish anything upon himself. Blessing as it refers to God is the word that, you know, it’s the adjective. Um, it’s tangible. Let me read you a portion of scripture to help, uh, illustrate this point. It’s found in first Peter chapter one, verse three, blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Now, this is really interesting. Really do we consider that God needs to be blessed, but he is, exists fully in himself. So why does he need something from us? This is interesting.
It’s an adjective form here of the tangible word for Bless -ing. It is something about God, which we don’t wish upon God, it’s that which is tangible, which we declare something about God and what we praise God for or in this translation, bless God for, is not something that it’s a state, which is how we kind of think of blessing something good happens to us.
Let me read you this passage again, blessed, be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We bless God, because he has caused those who believe and follow him, to be new creations.
And I love this wording: to have a living hope and to read you how I put it here. Cause I don’t know, I don’t want to make a mistake. The acknowledgement that we can be transformed in this life is how we bless God. See, this is really radical. Blessing god is a realization of what he has done, not for himself, but what he has done for you and me who believe in him, new creations.
See, oftentimes he said, oh, you know, we bless God by singing praise to him. You know, worship. We have a good worship band. Cornerstone always has a great worship team. Now I’m not saying that singing worship or music, worship is not important. It’s very, very important. It’s in the Bible too, to give praise through song to our Lord.
But the type of blessing that Peter is talking about transcends the music blessing and the music adoration and worship of God into understanding of what he has done for you and I, we bless God, will we understand fully the potential that we have in Christ. It is a living hope today. Now, sometimes we think that being a believer is like, you know, an insurance policy getting eternal life, you know, so we just, you know, remain the same.
No, Actually, that’s not the goal. That is not the way of blessing. The way of blessing here is to understand that all of that which we are when we come to believe in Jesus Christ
in God’s desire and his wish is for us to be better and to be more like his Son, Jesus Christ. And the more we realize this and the more we understand what Christ has given us, as potential, the more we bless God, not just through what we say, but through the lives that we live. You know, some of us have had a difficult time during this period. America, last 18 months, a real time of transition.
Health issues now, some sort of economic issues going on. There’s anxiety here. One thing I find in scripture that God has given us the ability as new creations to begin to overcome the situations that bring us down in life. And that is the purpose of God. And the more you take hold of that, the more you bless God, because you trust in the process that He has set for those who follow and believe in him.
So we’re all finished with the first point, which is, uh, how we bless. In the book of first Peter, we then move on to the second point, how we bless other people, which is a different concept because usually in an American or Western understanding a blessing, a it could be Eastern as well. Blessing is something that we experience, we get, we possess.
And again, I’m not saying that this is not part of the understanding of biblical blessing. Remember biblical blessing is expansive, bigger than what you ever imagined. So the second point blessing as it relates to other people, I’m going to read you a portion of scripture. It’s found in first, Peter going through first Peter chapter three, I’m going to read verses eight to eleven.
It goes like this. Finally, all of you. Have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless. Now I’m going to stop right there, on the contrary, bless. And this is the tangible form, but it’s in the verb now.
But on the contrary, verse nine, for this, for, to this, you were called that you may obtain a blessing. There’s a blessing is a noun, okay. Whoever desires to love life and see good days. Let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it, for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
Now what’s very interesting. This passage is talking about blessing other people when, uh, evil is, uh, experienced by you from other people or when people actually hurt you by speech, revile you, you don’t repay evil for evil, reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, bless. What does that mean? Again, this concept of blessing is how we relate to other people.
It’s the way of blessing. It’s not just what we received is how we treat other people. And I need to talk a little bit more about this sometimes, you know, in, in church, you know, we, we, we want to do projects for the city or community to bless them. And, you know, that’s really good, you know, uh, it used to be this movement.
I don’t know if it’s still really popular, a beautiful day where people, uh, in different, uh, faith communities with helps, the neighborhood cleanups schools, you know, help, help, uh, tidy up the grounds of public education. Um, I know for myself, I would, I would, I would help out with, uh, I don’t know if it’s a popular San Francisco connect homeless sort of outreach to the city of San Francisco. Also volunteered a number of times for Habitat for Humanity in a project that borders San Francisco, Daly City, for a number of times too. You know these are really good.
You know, not saying you don’t do these things, but the type of blessing that Paul, Peter is talking about, not Pauling P P you know, it’s, it’s, it’s Peter, it goes beyond actions into the concept of reaction. You see, we can do good things for people, for society. Yeah. But the way of blessing that Peter is talking about goes really deep into your heart and soul.
He’s talking about, do you bless people when they treat you wrong? And for Peter, it says, you know, the way of blessing as it relates to other people, we are a blessing to others when we do not retaliate, but re -spond with graciousness. This is the one of the hardest aspects of blessing. This is really extensive.
This really expands because we can do blessings for others, strangers when they’re neutral. With, to be a blessing for others when they are hurtful, is indeed very, very difficult and needs what Peter Peter says in chapter one, verse three, the new creation aspect of our journey with Jesus Christ.
Not responding in an abusive way. That is the way of blessing
In my life, as a pastor, one of the things I always loved to do was just to sit down and talk to people, talk about their life. And recently I had the opportunity to talk to, uh, a man who, uh, came to faith in the middle of his life and seemingly had what people in the bay area desired. He was a, uh, an engineer in a startup company a few decades ago, and he came to Christ in the middle of his life.
And he told me very frankly, that, uh, candidly, that he was a terrible person back then. And I said, how could you be terrible? You had everything that people wanted. You have, you know? Yeah. You’re high. High-tech, you know, you’re in a startup, you know, you’re married, you have a kid. And he said, you know, I was a terrible person.
He described himself, uh, with a word that begins with the letter a, you know, okay. And he said, you know, when I came to Christ, I treated my wife terribly. I was a terrible person to be around. But he said, once he understood Christ in the gospel, he began to transform.
And one of the major ways in this transformation was how he was treating people around him.
When I heard a story, I said, this is, this is an amazing transformation. And because many, many people, when they come to faith, they, they, they want this eternal life type of thing, that relationship to God, but they don’t know how to relate to other people. And they don’t see the transformation that needs to take place as we relate to other people, you know, maybe that’s what you need.
Maybe that’s what we need to respond not in retaliation, not that we don’t get like, you know, in, instead of anger inside, you know, we don’t act it out. It’s not tit for tat abuse for abuse, and it’s not doing good things for people because you did good to us. Think about it. Maybe this week, situation comes by when someone mistreats you respond in grace.
That is the way of blessing toward other people, because you are not giving them back what they deserve. Now, from the blessing toward God and blessing, as it relates to other people. We now come to the more classic understanding of blessing, which is blessing as it relates to myself. Okay. And I’m going to read a first Peter, because I went through the book of first Peter, I’m going to read you some of the verses that I read, but I’m going to add one.
Okay. Now I’m going to read a, I’m not going to add one. Ah, I’m gonna read some of the ones I just read. Okay. Read verse nine. Again from chapter three of First Peter do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary bless, that’s the verb. That’s for others. To this, you were called that you may obtain a blessing.
Now this, the, the noun form to receive something, we go to verse 12 for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Blessing for ourselves. How do we get it first? It really exists. God is not your eternal, spiritual killjoy to cause suffering upon people.
He wants to give blessing to those who follow him, but in order to receive this blessing or to be the conduit of this blessing, what we do. Okay. It’s more than just simply prayer. No. It’s more than asking. I’m not saying you don’t pray. I’m not saying you don’t ask, but what I’m saying is that blessing as it relates to you and I, to me, to myself, which is real, which God wants to do, it’s relating, related to following Jesus, to grow and transformation, to become more like Him to follow Him.
You know, this is a really interesting thing. The way of blessing for yourself, isn’t going to some mountain here. No, I’m getting someone, it’s not finding a holy man to put his hands on your head. You know, the receiving of the blessing in terms of the long journey, is the more that you live your life in accordance to what Jesus Christ would want us to become.
The more you see God’s hand upon your life. Here. I wrote this when we are blessed by God, we will see His hand as we journey through life.
This is really hard. And part of this understanding is a deconstruction of what we think blessing is, because this is a blessing in growing, by not responding evil for evil or reviling for reviling. The more you’re on this path, the more you will understand the hand of God that he was in your life. Now, I was, uh, I became a Christian when I was seven years old in New York City.
And I’m not saying my life was easy. I left New York, then that much money. I got married when I was 21. Didn’t know much about marriage or about child rearing. Lived in different parts of the United States, traveled. Left my family. Lived from New York to Texas, to Illinois, and I’m in California and didn’t always have a lot of money suffer from ill health and like most ministers, in service for our Lord.
We got our share of lumps from people we minister to sometimes really harsh. Then sometimes it was really
hurtful and so I’ve been a Christian since I was seven. I am 65, 58 years. I went to seminary when I was 21. I am 65, 44 years in preparation or ministry. And I’m going to continue to do ministry, not always been easy, but I have been blessed beyond imagination because my wife and I have seen the hand of God work in our lives in situations, in the ups and downs, four and a half decades.
And I gotta tell you it’s been worth it, even though it takes a long time. I realized that the things that I experienced, that I learned, the fact that I’m doing ministry at 65, and I have this new sort of ministry tie with you people at Cornerstone is an indeed a blessing. Okay, it’s the hand of God. You know, and every ministry opportunity I’ve come.
I’ve never written the resume, for any of them because God would open doors. The fact that my daughters and my grandchildren live or will live close to us, is a blessing.
But it’s because you believe in the process and then takes a long time. What the process is: follow Jesus, try to do what he would want you to be. And you’re not perfect. We’re not. But you’re in the game and you are growing. Perhaps that’s what you need to do, be in this program of blessing in this life and understand and experience the hand of God upon your life
from blessing toward God, to blessing toward others, to blessing to myself comes the most radical understanding of blessing, which is the fourth one, the radical understanding of blessing. And with this radical understanding of blessing comes, um, Hmm. How do I say? A change of word to Makarios, in First Peter.
It’s not the tangible blessing that, which we actually experience or have, but comes to this word that is more intangible, more about perception of what blessing is, the term, as I mentioned, Makarios, it’s the one that is used in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. And it is used twice in the book of first Peter, let me read you these verses for this final point, radical understanding of blessing.
Verse 14 of first Peter chapter three, and then chapter four, uh, verse, uh, let’s go with, uh, 12 to 14 first chapter three, verse four. But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed. Now this blessing is not the tangible eu -logia family. It’s the Makarios family. The perception of blessing, because actually suffering is not the tangible blessings.
It’s not the end. God wants to relieve us of suffering. That’s why he’s going to come again. That’s why there’s the new heaven and new earth. That’s why there’s a resurrected body. But the perception of blessing that, which is intangible comes in the midst when you suffer for righteousness sake and something turns on, that that is a mind change.
That that is a blessing within itself, not in the tangible, because the tangible blessing is that it’s not there, but it’s the intangible, that it’s part of the process that God is having us go through and journey through life. Chapter four, verse 12 to 14 beloved do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s suffering that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed. Now there’s that word again, term blessed again, it’s Makarios. It’s the perception. It’s the intangible because the actual experience is un -blessing, but the perception of it is blessing. Let me to read that verse 14 again and finish it.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. This is the most radical understanding of blessing.
Per -ceived blessing in the midst of experiential un -blessing.
It’s actually the hardest thing to do. I wrote here the most radical shift is the, see that doing what is right at the bad moments are a blessing, hardest thing to do. Let me give you an example, perhaps a illustration. Well, one of the people that I like to hear you read is Tim Keller, Tim Keller once said this as in, I was a founding member of the Gospel Coalition and ah you know back then, it was really small.
About 30, 40 pastors at the, the very early meetings. And he said something like this in general, the unbelieving world should love what we do, we as believers, but they should dislike what we say.
That phrase he gave, but what it’s saying stuck with me and I probably heard it 15, 20 years ago. The world should love what we do, but there will be things that they hate what we say. And this is the hardest thing. Say the hardest thing some Christians want to like, oh, I hate, they hate what I say. They hate what I do.
That’s not what Jesus is trying to say. That’s not the way of radical blessing. Other Christians would live by this, uh, sort of motto. They love what we do and they love what I say. You know, just the people pleaser. That’s not the way of blessing, the hardest radical, they love what you do, because you are opting in a general graciousness, not retaliating.
The way that other people normally respond, you don’t retaliate, you act graciously, but here’s the twist.
They still revile you. Why, I’m doing what they want me to do. Yeah. Because something about what you say is still gonna rub them the wrong way, love what you do. It’s gonna, they will be irritated by some of the things you say. I’ll always remember that
because it’s the last lesson that generally we need to learn as believers and the flack that we get, not because of our behavior, but because of what we say
that itself is a blessing.
What a blessing is to be at peace with all people, no blessing is not retaliating when you want to hit them in the face because they insulted you and mistreated you. So maybe you just walk away. Yeah. But truth is truth. And we stand up for Christ and there are plenty of things that this society in this world, Christianity, rub, will rub them the wrong way.
Sometimes I wonder, you know, as Jesus woke, Paul woke as Peter woke, in one sense, they say things graciously. In one way, they do things graciously, but in another way,
they are not completely woke people. Jesus would feed the 5,000. He would heal anyone who wanted him to be healed and faith in him. And then they would crucify him. They would insult him. They would mock him. Paul would be arrested
It’s a very, very interesting life.
We need as believers to have this radical blessing because it really strengthens us in the inner person that they’ll love what we do. But they hate what we say. Think about this. Maybe that’s what we need to be. Let the new creation of Jesus Christ transform us from the inside out. Actions for others; it is to stand up for the truth and to bear the consequences of it.
And with that, all the usages of blessing are covered in the book of First Peter it’s beautiful and ex -spands what we think blessing is from our Western or human perception. It transforms. And the more you understand this, the more you’ll be drawn in and have a deeper and greater love for our Jesus. Our Lord Jesus Christ.
It will uplift you.
It will encourage you. Good will transform you. Let me end in a word of prayer. Our heavenly father, I pray for my friends at Cornerstone church, and those who are listening in through video. May you transform us into this way of blessing?
Allow us Lord to be a reflection of your grace to an unbelieving world for we pray this in the name of Jesus our Lord.
As Christians, we are part of God's Kingdom to come in the next life. But we are also part of that Kingdom now on earth. How can we live a life that honors God in the here and now while hoping towards what is to come?
As Christians, we are part of God's Kingdom to come in the next life. But we are also part of that Kingdom now on earth. How can we live a life that honors God in the here and now while hoping towards what is to come?