John 1:16: WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED ONE BLESSING AFTER ANOTHER.
Can you imagine, going on vacation in the middle of winter, and you’re sitting on the beach somewhere warm, relaxing, enjoying the sun, and suddenly, out of nowhere, a massive tidal wave comes crashing down on top of you and everyone else on the beach? A giant wall of water crashes down on top of all the buildings. Everything is destroyed. And everyone is pulled into the water, and drwoned. It sounds like a scene from a movie, but that’s what really happened last Sunday in southeast Asia. Can you imagine? Over 40,000 people were killed by a giant tidal wave. In our country, we think 9-11 is a big deal – and it is. But this is way bigger than that.
A massive earthquake took place in the middle of the Indian Ocean, sending a wave of water 500 miles per hour toward the shore, and as it traveled, it grew bigger and bigger and bigger. There was no warning system – and everyone was killed. So how was your Christmas weekend compared to that? When you hear things like that, it makes you realize that maybe things aren’t all that bad in your life. Sure, you have your own set of problems. Maybe you didn’t like the weather, or things have been rough on the job. But compared to the destruction in southeast Asia, things here in northwest Indiana are really pretty good.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “count your blessings.” And when disasters happen to other people, it reminds us to count our blessings. As Christians, we have a lot of blessings to count. John 1:16 is the passage that we’re going to be studying this morning: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” What a positive statement! Do you realize that every one of you, and every Christian in the world can say, “God has given me one blessing after another”?
We have just finished off another year, and we’re starting a new one. Are you glad 2004 is over? What a year 2004 has been for you, according to this passage of the Bible. During the year 2004, God has given you one blessing after another. This morning, let’s think about what God the Holy Spirit is really saying to us here. You see, there’s more to counting your blessings than just shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Boy, I’m glad I’m not in India right now” – there’s more to counting your blessings than that. Let’s study this passage and see…
John writes that our blessings come from “the fullness of his grace.” In our country, we know what it’s like to experience “fullness.” We eat too much, especially this time of the year. When was the last time you had that “full” feeling – you had one more plate of food than you should have had, and now you feel too full. God says that he is full of grace. God is like a giant warehouse of gracious blessings, and that warehouse never runs out. Every day, the angels pull up in their trucks and load up God’s blessings, and then they take those blessings down into your world and give them to you. And then they go up to heaven again, and the whole thing starts all over, and the blessings never run out. That’s the fullness of God’s grace.
I just read the other day how a man walked into a homeless shelter and started giving away $100 bills. He gave away a total of $35,000. Apparently, he had been homeless at one time in his life, and now he just wanted to give away some joy during the Christmas season. Nobody there deserved that money. That man just wanted to give it away. In a way, that’s how God describes himself in the Bible – he is overflowing with a desire to give you blessings – and these are grace-blessings, undeserved blessings. You and I are the people living in the homeless shelter, and God is giving us one blessing after another. That is the fullness of God’s grace.
Let me ask you this – during the Christmas season, does everyone in the world get everything they want? No. In fact, there are some people who walk away from Christmas empty-handed, because things just didn’t work out for them as they would have liked. TV makes it look like everyone lives happily ever after at Christmastime. But in the real world, there are a lot of people who get absolutely nothing.
But that’s not what happens when God blesses his people. No one is left out. According to the Bible, there is no such thing as a Christian who has not been thoroughly blessed by God. And you can get that from this passage, from one little word – do you see it there in verse 16? What does it say there? From the fullness of his grace we have ALL received one blessing after another. All of us receive a ton of blessings from God. No one is left out.
A few months ago, all you heard about was the flu vaccine, and how there was a big shortage. Every day, you heard about how not everyone was going to get the flu vaccine – only certain people – and if you don’t get that vaccine, then you are in big trouble. Maybe if you stand in line, you’ll get lucky and get the vaccine. But not everyone can get it.
God doesn’t hand out his blessings that way. Everyone gets blessed. And every Christian gets a “death vaccine.” Do you know what that means? Have you really been vaccined against death? The Biblical answer is yes. Because of sin, death was supposed to be a terrible thing. Once you die, you were supposed to stay dead forever. And your soul was supposed to go to hell, where you would be punished for all of your sins forever. That’s what was supposed to happen at death.
But on Christmas, Christ came into our world, and he brought with him the “death vaccine.” Instead of you being punished for your sins, Christ is punished instead, as your substitute, in your place. Instead of you going to hell, you go to heaven, because of Jesus. And instead of your body staying dead forever, on the last day, Christ promises to raise your body from the dead, and create a brand new world for you to live in. For a Christian, death is not something you need to be terrified of. Everyone who believes in Christ receives this “vaccine” against eternal death and punishment, and it’s called “the forgiveness of sins.” You get an extra dose of that vaccine every time you hear God’s Word and take the Lord’s Supper.
And look at that phrase – “one blessing after another.” In the original Greek, what the Bible is literally saying here is that we all have received from God “grace after grace.” In other words, today’s grace will be replaced by tomorrow’s grace. And this week’s grace will be replaced by next week’s grace. The4re is a never-ending supply of gracious blessings that God is giving to you.
We live in a world where we are told that we’re always supposed to be upgrading everything. If your car is getting too old, you’re supposed to update it, or upgrade it. If your computer is getting too old, you have to eventually upgrade that too. You better update your wardrobe, update your kitchen appliances – eventually, everything we have has to be updated or upgraded. Did you realize that God updates your blessings too? For example, if you committed a sin yesterday, then you know that God’s grace covers that sin. But what if you committed and new and different sin today? God’s grace is able to cover that new and different sin today. And the way God blesses you now is different than the way he blessed you 25 years ago. God keeps up with you, watches your life, and gives you one blessing after another, everything you need, even as your life changes.
Do you know what’s sad? A lot of Christians spend their time focusing on what they don’t have. You look back on the year 2004, and you think to yourself, “Boy, there are a lot of things I DON’T have. God really hasn’t blessed me all that much. I wish I had this. Why can’t I have that?” Have you ever felt yourself fall into that way of thinking – look at what I don’t have? Sometimes that causes us to get angry with God. We start questioning his wisdom and love. Does God really care about me?
But the good news is, God’s grace has been updated to cover that sin too. Christ’s sacrifice washes away all of our negative thinking. Just think of all the spiritual blessings God gave you in the year 2004 – he pardoned you of all of your sins. For some of you, he brought you to faith. For others of you, he matured your faith. As a church, he has brought us closer together as a family of believers. He has blessed us with some new faces that we didn’t have a year ago. He’s given us direction and hope for a new church building someday. During the year 2004, Beautiful Savior has received from God one blessing after another. And you can put your name in there too – During the year 2004, you have received from the fullness of the grace of God one blessing after another.
So count your blessings. And don’t just count them once a year, right around new year’s time. And don’t just count them when you see a natural disaster take place on the other side of the world. Make a new year’s resolution today, that during the year 2005, you’re going to be one of those people who’s always counting his or her blessings, who’s always recognizing the good things God is giving, who’s always thanking God and looking forward to the new ways that God is going to display his grace in your life. Let’s end our sermon by reading that passage together from John 1:16: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”