April 17th 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

In 2010, the film Inception came out.  It was a science fiction/thriller about a person who is able to enter into, manipulate and shape dreams.  The protagonist, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and named Dominic Cobb, makes this profound, and I think very true, statement, “What is the most resilient parasite?  An idea.  A single idea from the human mind can build cities.  An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.”  That’s a pretty interesting statement, isn’t it?  That one idea, maybe a word spoken and a word believed, has the ability to transform the world to build cities.  Is an idea really all that powerful?

If you have your Bible, open to Genesis 27.  We’re going to jump into a narrative where this is going to be one of the themes — the idea that a word spoken and believed has the ability to shape and transform worlds.  If you’ve been with us over the last few weeks, you know that our main character in this series is Jacob.  We’re looking at his life and trying to ask the question — God, how do you point out, in the life of Jacob, the way that you use all of the stuff in our life….the stuff we’re proud of and the stuff we’re ashamed….the good, the bad, the ugly and the everywhere in between.  How do you use all of that to shape us and make us into the people that you’re calling us to be?   Let’s jump into the story: Jacob’s father’s name is Isaac.  Isaac loves Jacob’s brother, whose name is Esau, more than he loves Jacob.  Isaac pulls Esau aside and tells him he wants to give Esau THE blessing. But I’m (Isaac) a little bit hungry so what I’d like you to do is go and catch me some dinner first.  When you bring that dinner back, prepared the way daddy likes, I’m going to give you the blessing.  Isaac is old and blind at this point in time and Jacob’s mom, Rebekah, overhears him make this statement.  Rebekah loves Jacob more than Esau, so she pulls Jacob aside and says here’s the deal.  Your dad just promised the family blessing to your brother, but what I want to do is have you steal the blessing.  We’re going to prepare the dinner that dad likes. You take it in and you pretend to be Esau and you steal the blessing from your brother.  Here’s what we’re starting to find out — Jacob is living up to his name.  No offense if your name’s Jacob.  My guess is that your parents just liked the sound of it, that’s how we primarily pick names today.  Back in that day, a name really meant something.  In this case, it meant ‘heel grabber.’  It meant cheater, swindler, shady character.  Jacob is going to start to live up to his name and he has a co-conspirator in this story and it’s his mom.  His mom has prepared the dinner for him to take in to his father to get the blessing, to trick him, pretending to be somebody else and to take what was his brother’s.

We’ll begin at Genesis 27:18.  The meal’s prepared.  The lie is imbedded and he’s about to start living it out.  So he (Jacob) went in to his father and said, “My father.”  And he said, “Here I am.  Who are you, my son?”  Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn.  I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.”  But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?”  He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.”  Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.”  So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”  {His mom made him goat skin to put on his hands and to put on his neck in order to feel and smell more like his brother.} And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands.  So he blessed him. He said, “Are you really my son Esau?”  He answered, “I am.”  Then he said, “Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.”  So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank.  Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.”  {This is sort of the climactic scene in the narrative.}  So he came near and kissed him.  And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!  May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine.  Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you.  Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.  Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”  As soon as Isaac had finished the blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. {Remember, he’s off trying to catch the game that his father loves to bring it in to get the blessing.}  He also prepared delicious food and brought it to his father.  And he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.”  His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?”  He answered, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.”  Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him?  Yes, and he shall be blessed.”  As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”  But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.”  Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob?  For he has cheated me these two times.  He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”

Interesting story.  Interesting narrative.  It all revolves around this idea of “blessing.”  We have a fairly infantile view of blessing in our culture and even in our church culture today.  We use the word blessing like…..hey, how are you doing?  I’m blessed. #blessings   Or somebody sneezes and we say, “God bless you.”  We even use the word blessing as a way of almost judging someone like…..Oh man, that couple.  They cannot control their kids. God bless them.  But back in this culture, that word blessing really meant something.  In the Greek, the word ‘blessing’ literally means “good word” or “to speak a good word over.”  Blessing would be the projection of good into the life of another person.  Or you could view it as an accurate spiritual discernment of who someone is and then using very carefully crafted  words and symbols and ritual in order to unearth the blessing or the reality that you see in their life.  It’s speaking good over the life of another.  The nation of Israel had a long history of blessing; they were a people of blessing.  God gave them this command early on (Numbers 6:22-26): The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.    Every single time the Jewish community of people would meet in synagogue, when the service was closing to an end, the rabbi would come up and as the service ended they would recount this blessing over the people.  The people received it as the very words of God.  The good words of God.

Is the narrative in Genesis 27, where Jacob so longs for the blessing from the father and Esau longs to get it back, some pre-modern, sorta magical incantation idea that we’ve moved beyond?  When I first read it a few times this week, I thought wow, this is a very interesting narrative, an interesting story and I’m not sure how much it has to do with life today.  But then I remembered that as a youth pastor I led a group of sophomore guys.  One of the guy’s name was Tom.  Tom shared in this small group of guys…..he wasn’t the most athletic guy in the group, but he was a very intelligent guy.  He shared with us that he gave his father an English paper he had written to proofread and give back to him before he turned it in.  He said, “My father gave it back to me and on the paper he had written, ‘You’re not as smart as I thought you were.'”  What Tom said struck me, because he said to that group of young boys, “Those words are seared on my mind.”  Which one of us in this room, hasn’t had things said to us that just stuck.  We can have good things that stick with us, right?  We can have really negative and bad things that stick with us.  We can have words of blessing or words or cursing, but words have this way of just sticking in our soul.  In 1992, Jim Davidson and his best friend at the time, Mike Price, climbed Mt. Ranier.  They got to the top of Mt. Ranier and snapped this picture.  On the way down, they fell into an 80-foot-deep crevasse.  Mike died upon impact.  Jim was still alive, but was caught on an ice ledge that was only two feet wide and 80 feet deep.  Over the next five hours he started to climb his way up.  After he made it to the top, Jim Davidson wrote a book called The Ledge.  In it he said, “The entire time I climbed, the words of my father kept coming back to my mind.”  From the age of 12, he worked as a painter with his father.  His father had a contract painting power poles, so he would climb up and paint them.  From the age of 12, his father spoke words of encouragement and life into him.  He said, “The entire time I climbed, I just heard my father speaking to me.”

So I ask you, is the idea that words have power a primitive, magical incantational type of idea or is it the reality of the world that every single one of us lives in?  I would argue the latter.  You have things in your mind and in your heart that somebody spoke to you years, maybe even decades, ago that as much as you want to get rid of them, you can’t.  You also, I hope, have words that people have spoken over you—words of good—that in many ways shape and define your life.  Walter Brueggemann, the great Old Testament scholar, talks about this passage and says: “This narrative presumes that symbolic actions have real and lasting power.  Spoken words, especially from a parent to a child, shape our human life.  Words are not a matter of indifference that can be attended to or not, as a matter of convenience.”  I’d say it like this….we all heard growing up, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  What a bunch of garbage!!!  It should be “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart….can shape my soul.”  It’s true!  It’s true that spoken words shape human worlds!  The words that we speak shape marriages.  The words that we speak shape the job that we work in.  They shape the way that we view the job; they shape the way that we do the job. They have a power over us.  Words that we speak shape dating relationships and homes and neighborhoods. You name it, every single environment you operate in is shaped by someone’s words and oftentimes by YOUR words. Which is why even the New Testament is so keen on inviting us to contemplate the power of the words that we speak.  Listen to the way that James, one of the great leaders of the early church, puts it:  If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.  {You want to control a horse, he says, just control their mouth.}  Look at the ships also; though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  {Large ship, small rudder which tells it exactly where to go.  What’s his point?}  So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. {The tongue is small in size, but not in stature, not in influence, because human words shape the worlds that we live in.}  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! (James 3:3-5)  

Have you ever stopped to think about the power in your tongue?  The power not only over your life to shape the direction and course of your life, but also the lives of other people.  Nelson Mandela had some time to think about this — 27 years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement.  He said: “It is never my custom to use words lightly.  If 27 years in prison has done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”  So maybe this idea of the power of words, or the power of blessing, isn’t just some sort of magical, incantational type of pre-modern idea that we have simply moved beyond with all of our maturity and all of our advances and all of our technology.  Maybe it’s something that’s still deeply imbedded in the human soul.  That the words that we speak and the words that people speak over us have very real and lasting power.  Maybe it is true that the tongue still is one of the most powerful and influential forces in the entire world.  Maybe it’s true that worlds are shaped by words and that an idea has the power to build or destroy cities and to transform the world…..and YOUR world. Maybe it’s true that words shape worlds.

I’d like to propose to you today that it is (true), and I want to draw out from this passage three ways that that happens in the life and narrative and story of Jacob.  Three ways that that happens.  Number one.  Genesis 27:8 — Rebekah is giving Jacob this instruction and in verse 8 she says:  Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you.   Verse 13:  His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and so, bring them to me.   Verse 43: Now therefore, my son, obey my voice.  Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran.  You catching the theme?  Mom’s a little bit controlling.  Mom’s a tad manipulative and she’s pouring into her son these three words “obey my voice.”  Here’s what we see in the life of Jacob.  That words have this ability to shape worlds because they often determine our direction.  The voices that we allow to speak into our life have an ability to help chart the course of our life like no other.  Unfortunately, it’s oftentimes the loudest voices that get a hook into our soul, rather than the wisest voices.  Rebekah’s voice is the loudest in the life of Jacob.  But she had two problems:  number one is her whole world was shaped by fear.  She had this fear that her most beloved son Jacob was going to be left behind and that he was not going to get the blessing, he wasn’t going to have the life he so desperately wanted and that she wanted for him, so her whole world was shaped by fear.  You know what happens when our world is shaped by fear?  We control.  We take things into our own hands and when we can’t imagine a good outcome because of the fear that has so blinded us, we feel like we have to take things into our own hands and we have to get the job done.  We will do whatever it takes and we will run over whoever is in our way in order to get what we want.   The other thing Rebekah does is she is crippled…..she’s blinded and hardened by fear and she is crippled by doubt.  Listen, she has a promise from God….that the older will serve the younger.  She doesn’t need to go there.  Ironically, this is what God uses in order to exact his plan and his purpose in the world, but Rebekah feels she needs to take things into her own hands because she does not believe that God will be good on his word.  So here’s the question….do you?

I started to wrestle with the idea that if the words that are spoken to me help determine my direction and that often the loudest voices, not the wisest voices, get my attention, how do I choose who speaks into my life. That’s a great question and let me tell you what I came up with.  1) I want people who are wise to speak into my life.  That’s one of my criteria; that’s one of my lenses.  I want people who recognize who God is and our place in His world….those are the people I want to speak into my life.  2) I want somebody to speak into my life who is a little bit farther down the road than I am walking.  I’d put that in the category of wisdom.  But I want people who, when I look at their life, I’d want my life to turn out in a similar way.  It does not mean that their perfect.  In fact, if they put off the aura that they are……I’m out because I don’t believe you.  It’s not that they’re perfect, it’s that they’re in a place that I would want to be.  3) Are they passionate?  Do they care about something deeply?  Those are the people I want to speak into my life.  4) Is their life laden with joy?  If people are always grumpy, I’m not giving them this voice into my life.  No offense, but Jesus has risen from the dead!  He reigns!  He rules!  He’s good!  His joy is mine right now and if it isn’t yours, I don’t want to give you the right to speak into my life, no offense.  You can speak into somebody else’s, but not mine!  How do you decide who speaks into your life?  We think this is really important at South, so Pete and Sue Muckley have done a great job organizing a mentorship program.  Why?  Because we believe that words have the ability to shape worlds and determine the direction that our life goes.  But here’s the deal: we have way more people that are saying, “I would like a mentor,” than we do people saying, “I’m willing to mentor.”  I just want to throw it out there that maybe you would be somebody whose life is laden with joy…..that you’re a person of wisdom that you would say back to people who are not quite as far down the road, “Hey, I’d love to speak into your life, if you’d allow me to.”  {In our bulletin, you can mark that little box that says I want a mentor or I want to be a mentor and we will follow up with you and help you get connected.}

Secondly, look at verse 34: As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”  …..  Have you not reserved a blessing for me?    Here’s what Esau’s saying….Dad, I can’t go on if I don’t hear the good word spoken over me. Dad, I can’t go on if I don’t hear you say something good over my life.   As Dallas Willard so adequately put it: “Our souls were made to be blessed and we cannot survive without the blessing.”  It is impossible to live a healthy life that’s unblessed.  It’s not just a nice addition to life, it is a central component to living in the abundance that God has designed us to live in.  This whole family knows that without the blessing, life has no fresh possibility and no new beginning.  It’s no accident, friends, that 85% of youth who are imprisoned today grew up in a home without a father.  It’s no accident.  You just put those two things together and what we see is this immense power that words have in our life to shape worlds.  Why?  Because words have an ability to confirm our value.  They have an ability to speak something over us that unearths something deep inside of us. That we are people created in the image of a Most High God and the true value that we embrace oftentimes comes through the blessing that we receive.  I would say the opposite is true, also.  That the value that we lack is a direct result of not hearing the most important people in our life speak blessing over us.  You show me a confident young adult and I will show you somebody who had parents or mentors or friends who spoke words of encouragement and good and blessing over their life.  You show me somebody who wonders who they are, who’s faltering and who’s stumbling along, and I will show you someone who lacked people speaking this good into their life.  We either receive the validation we long for or we spend our lives fighting to say, “It’s true.  I’m worth it.  I’m okay.”  We either receive it or we fight for it.  It’s one of the two.

If you go back and read through this whole narrative, Jacob is this poignant figure, I believe, of the modern and post-modern person.  He goes about getting blessing the way that we often go about getting blessing.  What does he do?  He knows that being Jacob isn’t good enough.  That’s been pounded into him from day one.  Hey, you’re the second born in a first-born society; you don’t hunt, you’re more of a stew-maker so you’re not as loved as your brother.  The message from the get-go to Jacob is who you are is not enough.  And who you are is not okay.  So what does Jacob do?  He dresses up as Esau.  In fact, when his father asks him what’s your name, he says my name is Esau.  Can you imagine how much those words sting coming out of his mouth?  What he longs to hear from his father, he knows he cannot hear if he’s honestly and truly himself.  So he pretends to be someone he’s not.  He takes on a different name.  He dresses up to pretend and play a part.  He puts on his brother’s clothes.  His mom makes him some extremely furry mittens, I guess, and a neck gator to wear to pretend he’s his brother.  {Can we take a timeout to acknowledge how hairy Esau must have really been?? Ginger Chewbaca/Big Foot??  Hair everywhere! On his hands, are you kidding me??  Where a goat skin would pass as a……..  I’m just in awe!}  He covers himself.  He takes a page out of his ancestor’s book.  This is the exact same thing that Adam and Eve do in the Garden.  They’re created naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25). They are completely comfortable in their own skin.  They’re completely okay with who they are.  They know and they are known perfectly.  They’re an open book and because of the perfection that they were created into, they are perfectly good with that.  But when sin comes into the world, what happens?  They start to cover themselves.  They start to hide from God.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen. 3:7)   They said listen, we can’t be just who we are, because who we are isn’t okay.  And who we are can’t be blessed.  And who we are is broken and shame enters the world.  Shame always causes us to try to dress up as someone else, because we know that the real true us is unblessable.  That’s Jacob’s world.  That’s Jacob’s life.  If you look at his story arc, he hears what he wants to hear from his dad, but instead of making his life, in many ways, it destroys it.  He hears these words, but he knows they are not for him.  And that’s the way that wearing masks works for all us, isn’t it?  If we pretend to be somebody else, it’s impossible to receive the love that we so long for.  When we wear masks, when we’re dishonest, when we’re unwilling to engage our own story and then engage the stories of others, we prevent ourselves from receiving the very thing that we long for.  When people only know a facade, they can only love a facade, they can only accept a facade, they can only bless a facade.  

These words haunt Jacob’s life.  If you fast forward to Genesis 32 when he’s wrestling with God, God asks him, “What’s your name?” in the same way that his dad asked him.  This time he says, “My name is Jacob.”  He says, “I will not let you go until you bless me,” because the words of my father still ring in my ears.  I know it wasn’t really for me and it haunts me, because I heard what I wanted to hear, but I knew that it wasn’t really for me.

How many of us do this?  We dress up…..maybe it’s in a dating relationship.  We know that if they knew the real me, there’s no way that they’d accept me, there’s no way they’d like me, there’s no way they’d eventually love me, so here’s what I’m going to do….I’m going to pretend to be someone else.  Maybe it’s in a job.  Maybe we got into a job because we felt like we wanted our budget to look like a certain thing and so we know that’s what we’ve got to put on and that’s what we’ve got to do.   And we got into a job or career field that we know we’re not passionate about, we don’t love it, but we’re doing it because we’re wearing the coat, we’re playing the part because we want it to yield a certain end.  Or maybe it’s just the way we walk in the doors here!  You have a terrible fight in the car on the way here…..you walk in the door and somebody greets you, “How’s it going this morning?” #blessed  “We’re doing great.  We’re wonderful!”  We often put on masks and we often play the part and we refuse to be honest with our pain and we refuse to let people in and in doing so, we prevent ourselves from really being loved.  {Hey, could you look up at me for a second?}  If people don’t know the real you, they can’t love and they can’t bless…..YOU.  They can only bless and love the costume that you wear and the part that you play.  Eventually, that starts to haunt the human soul.  The validation of our humanity—as much as our culture wants to push us out and away from everybody else to find out who we are—is that we, in reality, were created for community.  The validation of our humanity takes place in community not in autonomy.  Intrinsic value—the value that is in us because we are children of the Most High God—is unearthed and uncovered through human blessing and human words, confirmed by the truth of who God is and what God’s done.

So, human words shape the worlds that we live in.  Why?  Because they help determine our direction.  They confirm our value.  Number three.  You see this as you look at the blessing that Isaac projects over Jacob’s life, but you see…..the blessing was for things of physical, material blessing of earth and fertility, of well-being, or shalom.  It was a blessing of power and preeminence that his name would continue to be great.  It was a hedge of protection over it.  I don’t know, I read through this story probably 30 times this week and every single time when it got to the part where Isaac trembles violently because he’s blessed the wrong son…..I just kept asking myself, why not just take it back?  Why not just redo it?  Why not pull “fingers-crossed-behind-my-back?”  Why not?  I was wrestling with that and the narrator of Genesis seemed wholly unconcerned with that question!  He just assumes that once words are out there, they’re out there.  That once words are spoken, negative or positive, they can’t be taken back.  How many of us have said something and as we see it going out we’re like…..ohhh nooo!  Has this ever worked for anyone?  No, once words are out there, they’re out there.  And once they’re out there, they start to take on a life of their own.  Words have deep and abiding power because they help shape the futures that we live.  It was true for Jacob, it was true for Esau.

Blessing shapes us in one of two ways.  Either we receive it and we believe it and we live into it OR we disbelieve it and we spend our life searching for it and trying to prove it.  The future is often spoken over us before it’s seen or believed by us.  I can remember being a 19-year-old kid helping out on a church’s retreat.  I was serving in Young Life and my home church needed a few extra small group leaders for a high school retreat. I found my hand in the air and got selected to go on this retreat.  There was an older gentlemen who came up to me (at this retreat).  He said, “Ryan, I don’t know you from Adam.  I don’t know anything about your life, but I just want to tell you that I sense from God that He has a great plan for your life.  Someday, you’re going to teach people about the Bible.  Someday, you’re going to be a leader in His church.”  As a 19-year-old kid who had no idea what my major was going to be, who had no idea what God was calling me to, only that I had this growing passion to work with His people, to be a part of His church, to lead in some way……I can tell you, those words sunk into my soul and they haven’t let go today!!!

Here’s my prayer, friends.  I have this conviction, in the same Gary Chapman has in one of his books (Love as a Way of Life), our words can either by “bullets or seeds.”  They can either by used to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble, or they can be used to heal, to help and to bring hope.  I long to be a part of a community where we are a people of blessing.  Where we take the time to look each other in the eye and to say that this is what I see in your life.  To take the time to look each other in the eye and to encourage when people are down, to pray over when they’re downtrodden, to breathe hope where there’s despair, to breathe peace where there is just absolute chaos and storms in life.  I long to be a people who I would characterize as a “prophetic” community, where we believe God still gives words of utterance, as the Scriptures so clearly say.  It’s one of the spiritual gifts — For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom… {To say over somebody’s life, “I sense this is what God’s doing in your life.  How does that sound to you?  Does that sound right?  Does that sound like God’s Spirit is confirming that to you?”}  …and to another the utterance of knowledge….(1 Corin. 12:8)  {I think this is where God’s leading and where God’s guiding.}  This is a prophetic, life-giving, weighty-worded community, where we recognize that the words that we say have a power about them to shape our future.  That’s the type of community I want to be a part of, that’s the kind of world I want to be a part of, that’s the kind of church that I want to be a part of, where we look each other in the eye and we speak good over one another.  It is so easy to be a people of cursing….and I don’t mean saying bad words.  You can curse somebody with the raise of an eyebrow.  You can curse somebody with silence.  You can curse somebody with a passing glance.  I want to be a community where we evoke the good of our God over each other.

If you’re a parent, would you look up at me a second?  I don’t know that there’s a more important message for parents than what we see here.  The words that we speak, or don’t speak, over our kids will help determine the course of their life.  Our kids need to hear us speak good.  They need to hear us speak blessing.  We need to be in tuned enough with who God has created them to be to see that and to help unearth what’s already there.  To put a finger on it.  To put words on it.  Maybe to build symbols and memories around it because those words will have deep and abiding power in their life.  They will!  They will help determine their direction, they will confirm, or not, their value and they will help shape their world!

You know what’s interesting to me?  Because of the effects of sin in our world and in our lives, we all, like Jacob, have this need to dress up.  We all have this deep and abiding sense that who we are doesn’t quite add up and it isn’t quite good enough.  Which is why the gospel is so powerful.  The gospel is NOT that you are amazing and that you are awesome.  The gospel is God knows you need something to cover you, that you’re going to put on something, you’re going to “dress up” one way or another and so the invitation of the gospel is not to try to pretend you’re something that you’re not, but to fully embrace who you are and to put on ALL of who Christ is.  That we stand before the throne of God dressed in His righteousness alone! If you hear nothing else from me this morning, hear this — the good news of the gospel is that the King of kings and the Lord of lords has spoken blessing, goodness, over your life!  He purchased it on the cross and He gives it to you by His grace freely.  In Ephesians 1:3-6, Paul summarizes this:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing {He’s holding nothing back over your life, friends.  When you put on Christ, He’s holding nothing back over your life.} ….even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.    The blessing that your heart and soul was designed for and longed for cannot be found by pretending to be someone else, but it can be found when you know that He took your place and when you take on His righteousness He says, “If that’s where you’re at, your life is abundantly, beautifully, miraculously blessed because the King of kings and the Lord of lords has favor over you.”  Hearing God’s favor over us has this unique power and ability to create a new identity within us.  Listen, if God was able with one word to speak the cosmos into being, I think, with one word from Him, He could change the very life that we live.  Imagine if we started to hear Him singing over us.  Imagine if we started to hear His blessing over us.  Imagine if His words determined our direction.  Imagine if His words confirmed our value.  Imagine if His words started to shape our future.  Friends, I pray that those seeds would sink deeply into your soul and that they would take root in a way that would bear fruit, not only in your life, but in everybody’s life who comes in contact with you.  Speak life!  Speak hope!  Speak blessing!  There is power in your words to shape human worlds.  Use your power for good, friends.  Let’s pray.

So Lord, I would ask, as we close our time together today, that you would remind us of the blessing that’s ours in you.  That the things that we often fight for and we feel like we have to wear a mask to get, that we would recognize today that Jesus went to the cross, Father, that You paid the price that we needed in order to receive the blessing that our souls long for.  So Lord, would you help us soak in that?  Would you help us remain in that?  May your words shape the course of our life.  May it confirm value to our soul and Jesus, may it shape the people we become, the worlds that we create and live in and Lord, may everybody in our life be influenced by it.  We pray that in the name of Jesus.  Amen.