October 24, 2017

Thanksgiving: A Way of Life

By Ron Halbrook

Thanking God for our many blessings is a way of life, not an occasional or seasonal gesture. The spirit of thanksgiving animates the heart and life of every true servant of God. All men owe God daily gratitude because "it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Ps. 100). God is greatly pleased when humble hearts "magnify him with thanksgiving, "but he is greatly angered when hardened hearts ignore his blessings and resist his commandments (Ps. 69:29-31; 95). Ungrateful hearts fall deeper and deeper into the darkness of sin and error, putting God out of their minds and becoming "haters of God" (Rom. 1:21, 28-30).

The spirit of true thanksgiving to God requires that we receive Christ by obeying his gospel and that we continue to "walk . . . in him" by abiding in his teaching (Col. 2:5-8). We receive Christ when we are "buried with him in baptism" (v. 12). Then, we worship him in spirit and in truth, "giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord

Jesus Christ" (Eph. 5:19-20). Our trust in the Lord grows and he guards our hearts as we draw near to him in prayer "with thanksgiving" (Phil. 4:4-7).

Thank God for Physical and

Material Blessings

Let us thank God daily for all physical and material blessings. Because of our daily dependence on food, it rep-resents all blessings which sustain life. Therefore, God places special emphasis upon our giving thanks for our food as a constant reminder of our dependence on him for all things.

Jesus himself taught this spirit when he fed 4,000 people with a few loaves and fishes; first, he "gave thanks" (Mark 8:6-7). When a similar miracle was performed another time, the food was eaten only after "the Lord had given thanks" (John 6:11, 23). When Paul was transported to Rome as a prisoner, the ship carrying 276 people passed through a storm. Afterward, Paul urged everyone to eat, but before anyone ate, he "gave thanks to God in presence of them all" (Acts 27:35).

God intends for food "to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." Some foods are forbidden by pagan religions, false teachers who profess Christ, doctrinaire vegetarians, and certain environmental and animal rights extremists, but all foods God made may be eaten on the basis of his teaching and our thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5).

The universe was created by Jesus Christ and continues to exist and function by his divine power  "by him all things consist" (Col. 1:16-17). Every human life, every breath of air, every new day, every night of rest, every bite of food, every thread of clothing, every moment of health, every recovery from sickness, every scriptural marriage, every child, every true friendship, every drop of water, every talent or ability, every color, every ray of sunlight, every beam of moonlight, every twinkling star, every form of flora and fauna on the face of the earth, every expression of beauty, every blessing of every kind  they all are gifts and favors bestowed on us by the hand of God! "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!" (Ps. 107).

Thank God for All Spiritual Blessings

The spirit of true thanksgiving to God leads us to thank him daily for all spiritual blessings. These benefits are even greater in meaning to us than the physical and material things of life. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). These blessings are called "the unsearchable riches of Christ" because their value to our souls is beyond measure, comparison, or full comprehension (Eph. 3:8). Spiritual blessings are so precious because they involve our fellow-ship with God which extends throughout earth life and into eternity  "having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:8).

Notice that "all spiritual blessings" are found only "in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). God of his own free will provided these gifts and favors in Christ. The creation of this spiritual realm or relationship by God is unconditional, but the reception of its blessings by man is conditional. God does not force men to enter this spiritual relationship in Christ, but he invites all men to enter. God invites men through the proclamation of the gospel, which was revealed in Scripture by his Spirit. Thus, when men hear this teaching, believe it, repent of their sins, and submit to water baptism, they are "born of the water and of the Spirit" and "enter into the kingdom of God" to enjoy all its spiritual benefits (John 3:5).

1. Thank God for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ! In God's moral government over man, sin brings death or separation of man from God. To impress man with the seriousness of sin, and at the same time to provide a remedy for sin, God required the death or sacrifice of animals "to make an atonement for your souls," i.e., as a means of man's reconciliation to God (Lev. 17:11). Each time an animal was sacrificed, man was reminded that sin brings death and that God offers forgiveness. The animal sacrifices of Old Testament history pointed toward the final, perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the true basis upon which God forgives man's sins.

Christ died to "sanctify the people with his own blood ... By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name" (Heb. 13:10-15). We honor Christ by confessing, proclaiming, and defending his name both in worship and in daily life. In preparing to eat the Lord's supper as a memorial of Christ's death, we first thank God for the gift of his Son (Matt. 26:26-29; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:23-26).

2. Thank God for salvation from sin! In spite of his best intentions, every responsible person sins in thought, word, and deed, thus falling into "captivity to the law of sin.... 0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. . . . There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 7:22-8:2). Christ breaks our bondage to both the guilt and the practice of sin. To say we have "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" means we are chosen in him, adopted in him, accepted in him, and redeemed from our sins in him (Eph. 1:3-7).

Regarding himself as chief of sinners, Paul thanked Christ Jesus our Lord for extending grace, mercy, and patience, which resulted in Paul's salvation. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:12-17).

3. Thank God for revealing and confirming the truth of the gospel! No message is so great, so awe-inspiring, so astonishing as the gospel: "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1 Tim. 3:16). This message would be incredible had God not revealed and confirmed it "by many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3).

The gospel was revealed and confirmed by fulfilled prophecies, by miracles, and by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not a collection of so-called pious myths but is attested by eyewitnesses (2 Pet. 1:3, 16-19; Heb. 2:3-4; Rom. 1:4). Paul told the Corinthians, "I thank my God always on your behalf," because God had so firmly established the truth among them (1 Cor. 1:4-9).

4. Thank God he gives the truth to pure, humble, honest hearts! Jesus thanked the Father "because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes" (Matt. 11:25-27). Jesus taught the truth to many people who refused it because they were proud, conceited, selfish, self-important, and self-sufficient. Then, as now, many said, "I am satisfied with my religion and do not see any need to make a change." With many people, truth and what pleases God are secondary to what-ever satisfies themselves. Because of such attitudes, even when they hear the truth they "just don't get it."

The simple truth sounds strange, narrow, legalistic, and judgmental to the carnal mind. "How can Jesus and his little group claim to have the truth and all the other reli gions in the world be wrong? How can so few be right and so many be wrong?" "I want a religion that lets me drink, gamble, curse, lie, mistreat my family, and miss church when it suits me and still feel good about myself."

Humble hearts seek the truth of God's word, but proud and carnal hearts seek sensationalism, emotionalism, and intellectualism. To the sinful mind, the simple truths of the gospel seem foolish and weak. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." God designed the gospel to save man in God's own way, not in a way which flatters, appeases, or compromises with the sinner. If it were any other way, man rather than God would be praised and glorified. Salvation is on God's terms, the terms of the gospel, "as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:18-31).

5. Thank God for those who obey the gospel! Paul thanked God for people in wicked Rome who once served sin but then "obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered" to them in the gospel. They were freed from sin and became servants of righteousness when they "were baptized into Jesus Christ" (Rom. 6:17-18, 3-4). Paul thanked God for those who received the gospel "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God," in spite of much opposition and persecution (1 Thess. 2:13-14).

6. Thank God for faithful Christians! We can be thankful for the inspiration and encouragement God gives us through the examples of faithful Christians (Rom. 1:8-12). In affliction and distress, Paul was filled with comfort and joy to hear the good news of the constant faith, hope, and love of the saints at Thessalonica. He even told others about this wonderful example of endurance (1 Thess. 3:5-13; 2 Thess. 1:3-4). Paul thanked God for the genuineness of Timothy's faith, which he had learned from his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:3-5).

7. Thank God for using us to spread the gospel! The smell of burning incense in ancient triumphal processions meant life to captives who were to be spared and death to others. We can thank God that he uses his people to spread the sweet aroma of the gospel everywhere we go, though we are loved by some and hated by others for doing so (2 Cor. 2:14-17). All who participate in spreading the gospel are "laborers together with God," to whom all the glory and credit belongs (1 Cor. 3:6-9). There is no greater privilege than to preach "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8-10).

8. Thank God for success in spiritual labors! God makes it possible for us to do the work we do under his direction, and he guides that work to fulfill its intended purpose. When Gentile Christians opened their hearts and hands to help destitute Jewish Christians, those who were helped offered "many thanksgivings unto God." Seeing how God was binding Jew and Gentile together as one in Christ, Paul exclaimed, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift" (2 Cor. 9:7-15).

9. Thank God for our final victory over sin and death! We will fight many battles before we lay our armor down, but we can thank God that the outcome is already certain because Christ has defeated Satan and will give us victory (Eph. 6:10-13; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). Because Christ arose from the dead, "Death is swallowed up in victory .... Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:54-58).

While God's people on earth continue to struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds, heaven already rings with praises of thanksgiving because the purposes of God will triumph in the end. Satan's defeat is certain beyond every shadow of doubt. Truth and right will prevail over all sin and error. If we are faithful, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall join the heavenly hosts in singing praises and thanksgivings to God for all eternity: "Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:7-11).

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 22, p. 1
November 21, 1996

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