November 28, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Today is the day, in the United States, set aside for people to spend the day giving thanks for the many blessings they have. More and more, it seems to be the day where many women frustrate themselves to no end to prepare a large meal for family and friends. The men help when possible (if allowed) and then eat themselves into a coma and spend the rest of the day watching college football. Then, Christmas decorations are brought out and set up and plans are made for all the Black Friday deals the next day. It is a day where many profess thanks for what God has given them and many more don’t. It got me thinking.

What does it mean to give thanks? As a Christian, how do I give thanks? Is it a certain phrase or few words that I say? Is it stopping to bless the gigantic meal and thank God for the great food and great family? Or is it more than that? Why does it seem that this holiday has all but disappeared? Why does it seem like it’s just a “holiday pit stop” before Christmas? Why does it seem more like a speed bump than a day where we really spend time on giving thanks? All of these questions aren’t meant so much as a scathing judgment (but if the shoe fits…). Instead, they’re the result of looking at the landscape of our nation and the direction both the country and the church seem to be headed. They’re the result of some introspection as to where I’m at and where I need to go from here. And they’re serious questions…

From the scriptures, we see 2 basic words used to present the idea of giving thanks. The first is the word charis (Strong’s G5485). Its meaning in regards to giving thanks is to express gratitude and thanks for a kindness granted or desired. The main word used is the word eucharisteo (Strong’s G2168, G2169). Except for one or two places, this word always deals with an expression of gratitude toward God, especially in Paul’s writings and Revelation. The NT has many places where we are encouraged to give thanks and it is always toward God. How does this compare to what many give thanks for today? For many, the thanks given is focused on the things they have (job, car, house, etc). For others, it is focused on the people in their lives (family, friends, etc). For many, God is the last person to be thanked if He’s even thanked at all. For some, the thanks to God comes in the form of a short prayer, but scripture shows us that we should be giving thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18). How often do you and I do this? How often do we thank God in times of trouble as well as times of blessing? How often do we have praise on our lips when things don’t go the way we were hoping? We should (and I’m including myself in this). In a time when the economy and the country are getting more difficult to live in and find hope in, we are to give thanks.

Think of the examples we have! Paul gives thanks in all things. In his sufferings (2 Cor. 11), Paul continued to proclaimed his gratitude toward God in the midst of beatings, jailings, shipwrecks, and the tyranny of the Roman Emperor Nero and his persecution of Christians. The other apostles were no different. All of them were martyred except John and the martyrs gave thanks to the Lord in the midst of their trials. We should take heart that, during these tough times, we have a God who is sovereign and cares for us. We should be thankful of the things that God has blessed us with and the people He’s brought into our lives; but never above the blessed gift of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Christ who is our greatest gift. It is He who is our Savior and became sin for us. It is He who has given us an eternal life that is secure and promised. To Him be the glory, thanks, and praise for His grace and mercy toward wretched sinners like us.

It is my hope that this Thanksgiving will be the beginning of a change. That people would put off their shopping and commercial fun of the Christmas season in order to spend a little more time giving serious thought and praise to the God that has given them life both physical and eternal. That they would spend a little more time enjoying the blessings they’ve been given before rushing off to the next holiday bonanza.

For the record, I am thankful for very much. First and foremost is my salvation. I call it mine, but it is only mine because it was given to me by someone who was once my greatest enemy. I hated the Lord Jesus Christ with all that I was. I didn’t go out and bomb churches or murder Christians, but I might as well have. No, to the world I was a quiet, nerdy young man who did good deeds and stayed (mostly) out of trouble. I was just like a large number of other people. And yet, I was wretched and evil to the core. I moved to Alabama to pursue a sinful relationship and it was then that I heard the truth of the gospel. The words pierced my dark heart and convicted me of my sin. They showed me that I wasn’t good, that all of the deeds that I did were worthless, and that if I continued in my sins, I would go straight to hell the day I died. I had no hope of saving myself and saw no escape from the wrath of God. And then, I heard of the mercy offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those glorious truths were like a shaft of the brightest sunlight shining into the darkest night.

With the realization of my sin also came the realization that I needed a Savior. Allah couldn’t save me. Buddha couldn’t save me. My reason couldn’t save me. Brahman couldn’t save me. No other man made gods could save me. I needed the one, true God. I needed to be saved by the One who came for the express purpose of saving sinners. I needed Jesus. By His grace, God regenerated me and gave me life. I was born again. I was no longer dead in my trespasses and sins. If that weren’t enough, He gave me the gifts of repentance and faith so that I could use those gifts to repent of my sins and believe in Jesus as both Lord and Savior. I was justified before God, not because of anything I did, but because of everything Christ did. It was a glorious feeling. The wrath of God was satisfied by the blood of Christ and its weight was no longer bearing down on me.

The fact that the God of the universe would come down, die for a sinner like me, and then give me the gift of eternal life freely in spite of what I’ve done is the most amazing thing that I have to be thankful for. If I had nothing else, I would have reason to praise God for eternity. But I do have more. Even though my life hasn’t been easy (that’s not a promise made to Christians!!), I have been blessed. I have a beautiful daughter who is growing up to be a godly, Christian woman. She, too, was saved from her sins and now she follows after Christ. I have been blessed to raise her in the fear and admonition of the Lord and watch as God has worked in her life. I have been blessed with a great family. None of them live less than 7 hours away from me, but we are close to each other like family should be. I have also been blessed with wonderful Christian friends who love me in spite of my sin. They are friend enough to tell me the truth when I need to hear it, even if it hurts (and I’ve tried to be the same way to them). I have been blessed with a great job, a home, a car, food, and so many other things that are really trivial in the grand scheme of things. I will not take any of these things with me. All of these things will fade away over the years, but my eternal life, secure in Christ, will last forever. For that, I’m thankful.

Today, before you end the holiday, take the time to truly thank God for all of His grace and mercy even in the hard times. Before you plan the shopping route for tomorrow, tell your friends that you love them and are thankful for them. Before you watch the endless parade of football games, tell those family members you can that they are precious to you and that you are grateful to God for them. And, if you are unable to do any of this because you don’t have the ability, be thankful to God for life. As hard as it may be, it is better than death. As difficult as it may be right now, if you’re born again, God will be with you through it. If you’re not born again, then I pray that before the day ends, that you would hear the truths of God. That you would understand that you are a sinful, wretched person and that you cannot save yourself. That you would know that the wrath of God abides on you and that in His justice and righteous holiness, He will send you to hell for eternity for just one sin. And then I pray that you would hear the truth that Jesus Christ, God made flesh, has come so that sinners could be saved. I pray that you would hear that the day of your salvation is at hand if you will but repent and believe in the Son of the Living God. The day is half over, but there is still time. Repent and believe in Christ while there is still time!

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