Thanksgiving

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Authentic Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” Luke 6:32-35 [Emphasis mine.]

Photo by KRK, All rights reserved.

As Americans gather to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday there is much cause for gratitude.[1] God’s providential goodness towards His creatures is repeatedly extolled in the Bible. Natural life itself is our Creator’s gift; if we possess eternal life through faith in Christ, moreover, they may also give thanks for full pardon and a righteous standing in the Almighty’s sight – indeed they are blessed with “every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3; John 5:24; John 17:3; Rom. 3:23-26.) Lesser – but still important – temporal blessings like health, food, friends, and family all provide ample cause for thanksgiving today and every day. It is never amiss to thank God for His goodness towards us, as the Psalmist says: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:1-2.)

A Thousand, A Thousand Thanksgivings

It is striking to read our Lord’s own description of His Father’s kindness: “. . . He is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35.) He enunciated a similar principle in Matthew 5:43-48, saying: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Emphasis mine.) God gives even to those who are undeserving of His largesse. His generosity flows out of grace: it is unmerited favor lavished on the unworthy. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8.)

Eternal, Unending Kindness

God did not wait for mankind to clean up its collective act, before initiating the plan of salvation. In grace, He shows kindness to the least, even offering His incomparable forgiveness, adoption, and love to those who receive it by faith in His Son (Eph. 2:8-9.) He manifests His grace and goodness by continuing to maintain the universe notwithstanding the deleterious effects of human sin on our world and us. Despite our history of poor choices and bad behavior, He offers us a new creation relationship with Himself (John 17:3; 2 Cor. 5:17.) We may walk with Him in this world, enjoying His friendship, practical provision, and wise guidance (Prov. 3:5-6; 1 Cor. 1:30.) To put it succinctly, we may begin to enjoy Him in this life and continue enjoying Him for all the future eternity.

Now that is cause for Thanksgiving!

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[1] The same applies to our Canadian friends who celebrated their own Thanksgiving holiday in October.

The Source Of Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

Considering his wrongful imprisonment by the Romans, Paul’s admonition is astonishing. In the clutches of a legal system that was sometimes impaired by corruption, the apostle’s fears might well consume him. Instead, he puts his cares in the hands of his infallible and omnipotent Father in heaven, and so is able to exhort his fellow-sufferers to “be anxious for nothing.” In doing so, he reminds us of the true source of thanksgiving: God’s person and work.

Public Domain by KRK

Public Domain by KRK

Why Worry When You Can Pray?

Bobby McFerrin’s infectious 1988 pop hit “Don’t worry, be happy” expresses the philosophy of many people when they face the trials and troubles that inevitably attend life in this fallen world. Christians are not exempt from problems and fears, but they can cast their care upon the Lord, knowing that He cares for them (1 Pet. 5:7.) Rather than say: “Don’t be anxious,” full stop; Paul says “don’t be anxious – pray instead.” This reflects a confidence in God and is a tacit acknowledgement of His power and faithfulness. Because the Lord is both sovereign and good, the believer can trust Him to work out His purposes for their ultimate, eternal blessing (Rom. 8:28-29.) Spurgeon points out that He is the only proper ground of the saints’ trust:

Is his heart faint? Is his arm weary? Is his eye grown dim? If so, seek another God; but if he be infinite, omnipotent, faithful, true, and all-wise, why gaddest thou abroad so much to seek another confidence? Why dost thou rake the earth to find another foundation, when this is strong enough, and broad enough, and deep enough to bear all the weight which thou canst ever build thereon? Christian, be single in your faith; have not two trusts, but one. Believer, rest thou only on thy God, and let thine expectation be from him.[1]

Habitual Thanksgiving

This passage also exhorts believers to bring their requests “with thanksgiving.” Giving thanks should come naturally to them, as a couple of nineteenth century commentators declare:

‘The temper of the Christian should always be one of thanksgiving. Nearly every Psalm, however deep the sorrow and contrition, escapes into the happy atmosphere of praise and gratitude. The Psalms, in Hebrew, are the Praises. All prayer ought to include the element of thanksgiving, for mercies temporal and spiritual’ (Note by the Dean of Peterborough). The privilege of prayer is in itself an abiding theme for grateful praise.[2]

  Why does Paul link thankfulness with prayer and supplication? First, looking to our God for help reminds us of all He has done for us in the past. He purposefully created us and presently maintains our physical lives (Acts 17:28.) He providentially provides health, food, friends, and family (see Psalm 104.) Most of all one thinks of “His indescribable gift,” He provided His Son as a propitiatory sacrifice, offering a liberating redemption payment and giving a new righteous standing in the Father’s sight (2 Cor. 9:15; Rom. 3:21-26.) In the future, He will complete the work He began in believers by returning to take them to Himself and transform them into resurrected form. They will then reign with Him in the Millennial kingdom and the eternal state to follow (Phil. 1:6; Rom. 8:11-23; 1 Cor. 6:3; 1 John 3:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4-6.)

Gratitude ought to be a daily, moment-by-moment attitude of human beings, yet it is often forgotten – especially in the presence of troubles. People often react to problems with introspection – or sometimes even self-absorption. But if one knows who God is and all that He does for us, then thankfulness is the logical and spiritual response. As Albert Mohler, Jr. recently wrote: “Thanksgiving is a deeply theological act, rightly understood. As a matter of fact, thankfulness is a theology in microcosm – a key to understanding what we really believe about God, ourselves, and the world we experience.”[3]

Ingratitude: A Native Human Weed

Historically, forgetting the Creator and ingratitude have gone hand in hand, as Romans 1:21 explains: “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In fact the original fall of Adam and Eve may be seen as a lack of thankfulness towards God’s bounty and a corresponding desire to have fulfillment outside of obedience to His will (Gen. 3:1-6.) Fixing one’s mind on God cultivates thankfulness; ignoring Him leads to thanklessness and foolish independence.

Admittedly, not giving in to fear is sometimes easier said than done. One writer notes that “Be anxious for nothing” is “an admonition that touches the quick of every person.”[4] Yet these verses are practical, being battle tested in the cauldron of multitudinous sorrows. In prison cells, on sickbeds, and in the face of various tragedies large and small believers still demonstrate that the Almighty exchanges fear for faith and worry for peace. Only the reality of God’s power and love as manifested at the cross can give one the patience and equanimity to endure hard circumstances. Because the Son of God died and rose again defeating every enemy, there is no trial that can withstand His effectual working (1 Cor. 15:51-56.) Only His throne of grace is a sufficient place where one may take one’s cares and needs. Commenting on Philippians 4:6-7, F.B. Hole well summarizes this truth: “We may be anxious as to nothing, because prayerful as to everything, and thankful for anything.[5]

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, “Words of Expostulation,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 7. Originally preached on January 20, 1861. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1861), 70.

[2] H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle to the Philippians, With Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1893, 112f. [Italics original.]

[3] Albert Mohler, Jr., “They Did Not Honor Him Or Give Thanks – Why Thanksgiving Is Inescapably Theological,” on the blog, accessed on 11/24/15 here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/11/23/they-did-not-honor-him-or-give-thanks-why-thanksgiving-is-inescapably-theological/

[4] Maxie D. Dunnam, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 31: Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / Philemon, ed. Lloyd J. Ogilvie. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982, 308.

[5] F.B. Hole, Philippians. Electronic ed., accessed here: http://biblecentre.org/commentaries/fbh_54_philippians.htm#Philippians%204 Accessed on 11/28/11. [Italics original.]

The Necessity Of Thankfulness

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” Psalm 92:1

Given that He is their Creator and Sustainer, human beings ought to naturally overflow with thanksgiving towards God. Sadly, man’s everyday existence does not conform to this most basic principle. In fact, unthankfulness is at the root of man’s problems. Romans 1 lists a catalogue of odious sins; heading the list is the failure to “glorify” God as God – i.e. giving the Almighty His rightful honor as sovereign Lord over the universe. Secondly, the verse says they were not thankful towards Him (Rom. 1:21.) Therefore, it is apparent that ingratitude is a most grievous iniquity, for it is listed before various types of perversion, violence, and other ills that most in society would recognize as bad.

Many Reasons For Gratitude

Why should people be thankful? Firstly, because God is the author of life and made them to know Him and live with Him for all eternity. When man chose to violate God’s word in the garden, he was severed from this life. As God said to Adam and Eve: if they disobeyed Him by eating, they would surely die (Gen. 2:17.) The death sin produces is physical, spiritual, and – if not remedied by receiving the gift of salvation in Christ – it becomes an eternal condition known as the second death (Rev. 21:8.)

Despite the adverse affects of the fall on human bodies and physical life, day to day existence in this world is contingent upon God giving us every breath and maintaining every heartbeat. Daniel the prophet pointed this out to the Babylonian king Belshazzar: “The God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified” (Dan. 5:23.) In presenting the gospel to the skeptical Athenians, Paul brought forth this truth as well, pointing out that “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28.) Yet, so many humans live as if God does not exist – or act as if He exists for their pleasure, not the other way around. In spite of this, He providentially gives people what they need to live and maintains the universe in the proper equilibrium for sustaining life (Acts 14:17.)

Eternal Thankfulness

In addition to being thankful for physical life, those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can also thank God for spiritual life. This life begins at conversion and is characterized by a living relationship with the triune God. Believers daily thank Him for saving them by not sparing the Son from the horrors of the cross (Rom. 8:30-32.) Furthermore, they are thankful for Christ’s glorious resurrection which declares His triumph over sin, the grave, death, and hell. They may thank God for a new standing in His sight: accepted in the Beloved, declared righteous, and eternally secure by His promise and power (Eph. 1:6; Rom. 5:1; Jn. 10:27-30.)  Christians can also be grateful that the Lord Jesus will one day return for them and call them to meet Him in the air, transform them into glorified bodies, and take them home to live with Him in the Father’s house for eternity (John 14:1-3; 1 Thes. 4:13-18.) This Thanksgiving, let everything that has breath give thanks unto the Lord – especially those who have eternal life in Christ.

To download in pdf., click here: The Necessity OfThankfulness