John 1: 16 (Thanksgiving Day - 2013)
“We Have Received One Grace after Another In Christ”
John spends the opening words of his Gospel proclaiming the profound mystery of the incarnation of Christ. Four weeks from now we will once again review key verses from his opening words. He shows how vital Christ is to all things God is and does. John teaches creation, ministry, God’s grace, the Trinity, and faith. He teaches the eternity of God and his relevance among the temporal nations of this earth. Christ is at the center of the entire chapter, the entire book, and all of Scripture. As a conclusion of these beautiful mysteries of Christ, Paul writes a practical verse of thanksgiving. The original language is so simple, and yet profound. It literally would read something like this: “For from his fullness we have all received … and grace in place of grace.”
We have all receive grace upon grace from the fullness of God. When we consider all blessings we consider Christ at the center of them all. Paul discussed the fullness of Christ in his letter to the Colossians: “For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form, and you have all been given fullness in Christ!” (Colossians 2: 9-10).
We have all “received.”People receive what God gives. That is why we give thanks. We are receivers. We had nothing to do with any of the things God has given. We did not earn them by something we have done. We did not deserve them because of something we were. We did not even ask for them naturally. God knew that we needed them. God also had every right to withhold them from us and, in place of grace, give us cursing, abandoning us for all of eternity. We are all receivers … beggars really.
Outside of Christ, we lacked every good thing. On our own we are helpless souls, sinfully prone to false pride and often given to a lack of self worth. We often struggle between ideas that say “Look what I did for myself …” and the other extreme which is flat out frustration and depression. Outside of Christ we have no other source of strength or gifts or help. Outside of Christ, there is no reason for thankfulness, service, or love. In Christ we are receivers. Our thanksgiving is born appropriately through that lens: we are receivers of what God gives to us in Christ.
What do we receive? Grace in place of grace; one blessing after another. Those blessings begin and end with God’s Son, the Word of God made flesh in Christ Jesus.
In Christ, the power of God, the deity, the authority, the GRACE of God, lives in bodily form. We are about to prepare for the celebration of that wonderful truth: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word became flesh.” God’s Word took on our humanity. Mary and Joseph prepared a make-shift cradle in a feed box. In the baby of that cradle God embodied the fullness of his grace in his Son. Through that incredible miracle, God desires to give all things to undeserving sinners. Those who are in Christ have also been given the fullness of God. We have all received grace upon grace – grace in place of grace.
We have all been the receivers of God’s wonderful proclamation of forgiveness. Our sinful slates have all been wiped clean. Our eternity has been secured, in Christ Jesus. God traded our sin for grace. That child of Bethlehem grew to be the Man crucified on Calvary. He replaced sin with grace on that cross. Now he loves to replace grace for grace for the rest of our lives on this earth and into the next!
Paul made the connection between Christ and all the other good things that John did here. God desires to give all his blessings to us through the conduit of his Son: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us ALL things?” (Romans 8:31-32). He has given us his Son. Along with his Son he has given us “one blessing after another.”
Think about what that small phrase means. Literally “grace in place of grace.” Every day we receive blessings from God. Even if one is taken away, there are many others to replace it. God never stops giving. His fullness never runs out. His storehouse of Grace spills out through the giving of his Son. He often chooses to give us something new, even when something else is taken away. God, who traded our sin for his grace to us, now relishes in replacing grace with grace.
The constant outpouring of Grace in Christ is what moves us to be in God’s house today. His never-ending blessings have caused us to be thankful people. As we count those blessings, we can think of the blessings that have passed and the ones that have quickly replaced them. A gallon of gas, a gallon of milk, a bowl of cheerios, a bologna sandwich, a change of clothes, or a month’s wages: those things are real blessings from God. They come and go so quickly, but God loves to keep replacing them. The food on the table the clothes on our bodies, the warmth of home and hearth, the Lord Jesus keeps replacing grace for grace … “one blessing after another.”
Even in times of sorrow and loss we are able to say, by faith, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:21). Even the very dear blessings of this life which cannot be replaced here – health, breathe, youthfulness, and especially loved ones who have gone ahead of to heaven - will be given back to us at the resurrection. He has given us grace to replace the grace he has already given us. “His compassions never fail, they are new every morning” (Lamentation 3:22-23).
As we count those blessings today we remember that he does this all because he is our good and merciful Father in heaven and not that we have earned or deserved it. We remember that we thank, praise, serve, and obey him. Think of it in terms of a gift. What are the circumstances of a true gift? There is a giver who sees no end to the joy of giving and there is a receiver who had no reason to deserve the gift. Some of the most meaning full gifts we give and receive in this life are the ones we say “keep on giving.” Grace in Christ is truly the gift that keeps on giving, one blessing after another. Our Savior is pleased to give such a grace each day: to replace grace with grace.
How do we thank him for such kindness? Useful appreciation is fitting. What better thanks to the giver can there be than for the receiver to make joyful use of what has been received! Our thanksgiving is not just a day on the calendar. It is a life of fullness, using those blessings as often as we have received them. With hearts and hands and voices we give glory and thanks to our gracious God! We have all received from his fullness, one blessing after another in Christ Jesus, our Savior! Our thanksgiving is shown when we reflect his generosity in this life with the resources he has so richly given. They will not wear out. They can be replaced if given away or lost. God loves to say to his children: “There is more where that came from.”
In Christ it is true. In Christ we sing:
Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices
Who wondrous things has done In whom his world rejoices
Who from our mothers arms, Has blessed us on our way.
With countless gifts of love and still is ours today.
A blessed Thanksgiving to you all in Jesus! Amen