For the month of May and probably into June, I’ll be writing a series on The Benediction. Today’s segment is What is the benediction?
Many of us think of the benediction as something we hear at the end of a church service that has no connection to the rest of our life. For some, it simply lets them know it’s time for lunch!
But there is so much more to the Benediction that is given in a formal setting. The simple definition of a benediction is the utterance or bestowing of a blessing. That can be done in both a formal setting and an informal one.
In many of the churches I have been in, the service ends as the pastor says, “Receive the Benediction.” He makes a point of having the people open wide their hands with palms up, to receive the wonderful word of blessing from God’s Word for themselves. That may not be part of your church liturgy but it is a good thing to think of when the Benediction is spoken over you. It’s purpose is for you to receive it into your life.
Benedictions and blessings are very closely related.
Benediction is another word for blessing. And blessing is another word that can be a bit like jello when it comes to defining it. The definition I found was a blessing is a favor or gift bestowed by God. So when we pray a blessing over someone, we are asking for God’s favor for them, often in a specific area. This can even include intangibles such as mercy, love, patience, to name a few.
We don’t need to have a pastor speaking a benediction over us, of course. But it is powerful in the context of a worship service, full of brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly if it is our home church where we are actively involved.
The speaking of a blessing or quoting of one is also very powerful as well. It can be simply reciting a blessing from the Bible over your child as he goes off to school, facing a tough day, or to your spouse on a “normal” work day. It can be as simple as giving them a compliment, telling them something you admire about them that you know is meaningful to them or as powerful as words from God’s Word.
Any believer can speak those words of blessing over another believer in Christ. In fact, we can pray blessings for others who don’t believe in God. He gives common grace to everyone. There is no reason we can’t pray blessing for someone’s life whether they are a Christian or not. But they will never fully know God’s blessing unless they have fully accepted His gift of grace.
There is also a relationship between receiving a benediction and repentance.
In a very real sense, receiving the Benediction is also part of what we do in Repentance. Repentance begins with recognizing our failure and emptiness in terms of what we have to offer God. As we see ourselves before a holy God, we realize just how poor and needy we are.
But then we trust that the work He did on the cross for our salvation was enough to pay for our sin and trust that His free gift of salvation was enough to provide what we needed to stand righteous before Him because of Jesus.
As we walk by faith over the years, we do continue to sin even when we don’t want to, or sometimes when we do. Again, we must repent before God of our sinful deeds and actions and sometimes to other people as well. But the final part of that process of repentance does not involve groveling in order to do penance for what we did wrong. There is nothing Biblical or gospel-oriented about that!
The final part of repentance, is accepting and believing by faith, that God has forgiven us. For some of us, this is not easy. In fact, it is so hard to believe it is possible for God to forgive us that we often droop our heads as we admit our sinfulness. (As if no one knew we were sinners.) But others know and of course, God knows the truth most of all! As we accept His forgiveness for our sins and failings, we can move forward as forgiven people who are loved by God. We don’t have to be ashamed because our forgiveness is thorough and complete.
This is the part of repentance that I didn’t understand to be part of it. I only saw the hard side of it.
I didn’t see the good side of it and as a result, I often walked away from the procession always “feeling” forgiven…especially if I found it hard to forgive myself (which is totally irrelevant to what is happening.)
In practical terms, I often felt the need to grovel.
That is the part of repentance that I really didn’t understand for a very long time…at least in practical terms. (And that is where it counts!) That is what makes repenting something to look forward to. It’s not merely something that involves the embarrassment of admitting I am wrong or groveling to do penance for what I did. (It is definitely NOT that!)
It is asking God to search my heart and show me the truth of what is there; to open my blind eyes to what I am trying to protect in terms of my precious desires and idols. It is asking Him to change the direction of my heart so it goes after Him and HIs values instead of mine.
Then, believing Him when He says I am forgiven. That takes a lot of faith.How can He forgive me? It’s hard enough for me to forgive me. In fact, only He can!
The aspect of benediction or receiving blessing from God, in our lives, is no small thing.
It is not fluffy. It is very down-to-earth and is a very important part of our Christian walk.
This is one of the more formal Benedictions from the Bible. I will be sharing more in the coming weeks.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,
working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV
Change-point: Take a few minutes to think about each of the phrases in this Benediction. Each one is full of truth that will be even more encouraging as you think about it.
Why? Because those word pictures add more depth and texture to what is being communicated to us. For example, what is meaningful about His being called the God of peace? What kind of peace is being talked about? Peace with God? Internal peace? Shalom? The kind of peace that keeps you from ever getting ruffled by your circumstances? or a combo of some of them?
Work your way through those phrases and see what you learn as you think about what that passage is talking about.