Rich through the Gospel

Rich through the Gospel

By Erin Bird

This week’s “facet” of the Gospel is that through Jesus, you are rich!

But don’t take that phrase the wrong way: I don’t mean earthly wealth. While some Jesus-followers have been blessed with much,  many have very, very little. They would be considered poor in the eyes of most people on this planet.  Even Jesus Himself would have been considered poor during his three years of public ministry, saying that He had “no place to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20)  In fact, Jesus warned against seeking worldly wealth many times. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Matthew 8:36)

So what do I mean, then, by saying that through the Gospel you are rich?

I’ll let Ephesians 1:3 explain:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,”

Did you hear it? If not, read it again.

If you follow Jesus, you have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!

I think this is why Paul described these riches as “unsearchable” a couple chapters later. (See Ephesians 3:8) These spiritual riches are so vast, so huge, they can’t be searched. That’s a lot!

But sadly, most of us aren’t using these riches.

Inherited Riches

In America, we tend to idolize people who “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” into fame and wealth. At the same time, we tend to look unfavorably toward those who are wealthy due to inherited riches. Earned wealth is thought to be more impressive than inherited wealth.

But what if you heard that before some guy became the newest millionaire in your community, he had been unemployed due to his employer closing down and was on the verge of homelessness? Suddenly, you would be quite happy for him! I doubt you’d think poorly of this guy. (Rather, you’d probably be a bit envious, wishing you had a rich uncle who could leave you a couple cool million!)

But now imagine you heard this new millionaire never touched the money.  And by not using the money, the bank kicked him out of his house for refusing to pay his mortgage. “But I didn’t earn that money, so I can’t use it!” he would exclaim with faulty logic.

This imaginary scenario is played out regularly by Christians on a spiritual level. Jesus’ death and resurrection have resulted in us receiving an inheritance that can never be taken away from us. And yet, daily Christians refuse to use these riches.

What spiritual riches am I referring to?

Your Spiritual Riches

First, if you follow Jesus, realize you’ve been given the righteousness of Christ. Some theologians call this “the great exchange.” Jesus took your sinfulness and gave you His righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). That’s like a billionaire having the credit card company send him your maxed-out credit card bill while putting a billion dollars in your bank account.

Second, not only have you been given the righteousness of Jesus, you’ve been given God Himself. His very Spirit lives within you. (Ephesians 1:13-14) And if the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now dwells in you, (Romans 8:11), then who can stand against you? (Romans 8:31) Talk about rich and powerful!

Third, because you’ve been given God’s Spirit, you have complete access to God (Ephesians 2:18). So I would encourage you to make your first move in the face of problems be prayer rather than make your first step an attempt in your own strength to “earn” the solution. (“God helps those who help themselves” is NOT in the Bible!)

Fourth, enjoy these riches now! These aren’t just riches awaiting you in heaven. You can enjoy the presence of God now through worship, service, conversations, prayer, good food, generosity, and so much more. (This is why Paul tells us in Colossians 3:17 to do all things for Jesus.) So enjoy God’s riches!

And whenever you forget to use these spiritual riches, go to the “bank” of the cross and empty tomb, reminding yourself of what Jesus has done for you, taking you out of spiritual poverty by giving you an inheritance of spiritual riches of His righteousness.

So know that if you follow Jesus, you are rich!

Reducing Spiritual Amnesia

Reducing Spiritual Amnesia

Happy Reformation Day, everyone!

Erin here. I am SO excited about the new email-only series we are starting today called “What I Am Learning.” This four-week series will feature a different member each week of our Riverwood family sharing with you what he or she is currently learning from God.

Matt & CassyFirst up is Matt Townsley. Many of you know, Matt is the husband of Cassy and father to Caleb, Tyler, Nathan, and Keely. Matt was just commissioned this past Sunday as the newest elder of the Riverwood family, so it seems very appropriate to let Matt have the stage first to shine the light on what God has been teaching him.


by Matt Townsley

When Moses went up the mountain for forty days in Exodus 32, God’s people were getting antsy, and started to build idols. Exodus 32:8a summarizes this sad turn of events:

“They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them.”

How could the ancient Israelites forget God’s goodness in such a short amount of time? They had just seen God miraculously bring them out of Egypt, yet just a few short weeks later, they had “turned aside.” It was a classic case of spiritual amnesia.

As it turns out, I often suffer from this disease as well.

My Own Spiritual Amnesia

In the past three years, my family has experienced a tremendous amount of change: adopting two kids, having another child of our own, moving to a new city, and (for me) starting a new job. Thankfully, through each change, God has provided His consistent goodness and provision.

However, like the Israelites, I have experienced doses of spiritual amnesia. Following each answered prayer through each of these life-changes in the past three years, I found myself starting from ground zero again, wondering how, when and even if, God would provide again “this time.”

For those of you who do not know, Cassy and I adopted two of our boys from Florida in a six-month time period in 2016-17. Agency fees, attorney bills, and travel expenses were a heavy financial burden. Cassy will be the first to tell you we almost did not adopt, because I, the math-minded-money-manager, didn’t see how it could possibly add up. However, through gracious donations, a foundation focused on helping adoptive families, and some government tax credits, all of our costs were covered. God provided in a BIG way! Yet I still found myself doubting if God would look after my family’s daily bread in the ensuing months.

Fast forward to Spring 2018 when I accepted a job at the University of Northern Iowa, which meant we needed to sell our house in Mt. Vernon and find a house in Waverly. When our house in Mt. Vernon sold quickly, we were thrilled. Yet I still found myself doubting if God would provide in such a tight market. In fact, the first house we bid on in Waverly fell through due to the seller taking the house off the market. All I could think was, “God, why?” Nearly one week later, God provided in a BIG way, through a quick sale of the house we currently reside.

How to Reduce Spiritual Amnesia

As I ponder about these past moments, I notice a recurring theme: I would utter an “after-the-fact prayer” filled with thanksgiving (which sounded like “Dear God, you are better to us that we deserve…”) followed a week later by an idol-building, self-dependent, doubting-God attitude. With a healthy dose of spiritual amnesia in tact, it has been consistently easier to thank God retroactively rather than have proactive faith in His goodness.

As such, I have learned several things about trusting God as a means of reducing spiritual amnesia:

1. God knows best.

In his book, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, Jerry Bridges says, “God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.” Nearly every time I wonder why God closed one door, He later revealed a new door that honors His will for our family.

2. Trusting God is a marathon, not a sprint.

James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Other translations substitute “perseverance” for steadfastness. I am admittedly a slow learner in many areas of life, but slowly learning yields spiritual benefits. So keep trusting God even when you are unsure of what the future holds.

3. The more I know about God, the easier it is to trust Him.

I don’t know about you, but the more time I spend with family, friends and co-workers, the easier I find it is to trust them. Psalm 37:4-6 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Reading God’s word reduces the temptation to depend upon myself and increases opportunities to learn about His desires for my heart.

I hope and pray you will be a quicker student than I by trusting God and remembering His goodness, so you will not suffer the same doses of spiritual amnesia that has plagued me in recent years.

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