The Gospel for Christians

Romans 1:18-25 The blessing of giving thanks

This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.

In a previous post, I talked about why thanklessness is a sin.  You can read that post for more detail, but here is a summary:   My starting point was the following definition of thankfulness…

We give thanks when we acknowledge the goodness of another

as it is expressed to us in real benefits.

The reason thanklessness is such a sin is that the real benefit we have all received from God is everything pertaining to our existence.  He is our creator, and everything we have, even our very life-breath comes from him. Not only have we failed to thank God for these real benefits, we have also failed to acknowledge the goodness of God in giving them to us.

Everything around us in the creation proclaims the infinite goodness of God!  To reject that and to scorn the Giver of life and existence is to scorn his infinite goodness.  Scorning an infinite God is an infinite sin, and a sin that is worthy of infinite condemnation!  That is why Romans 1:21 says that God’s wrath is being revealed against men for their failure to give thanks!

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened

As I thought about this verse, I began to wonder:   If God’s wrath comes when we fail to give thanks, then is it possible that there is a tremendous blessing that comes when we do give thanks?

I think there is a blessing that comes from thankfulness.  Giving thanks is a blessing because the joy and gratitude and happiness that we feel when we are thankful isn’t primarily from the benefit that we have received, but from the goodness of the one who gives us that benefit.

This is the real blessing: We are able to consciously experience the goodness of God.  Ultimately, BEING THANKFUL is a blessing in and of itself!  There is the joy and happiness and satisfaction of witnessing daily the goodness of our wonderful God and Savior, the Lord Jesus.

So the question is, how can I begin to walk daily in the blessing of thankfulness?  How can I experience the joy and satisfaction of being thankful?  Do I just walk outside and look up at the stars, or at the beautiful autumn leaves, or at the glories of creation and thank God for my existence?

The problem is that just as those pagan gentiles in Romans 1, you and I (and the religious jews in Romans 2), are ALREADY under the condemnation of God for our FAILURE to give thanks.  If the only thing you do to try to remedy this problem of not giving thanks is walk outside and look up at the stars and be grateful for your existence, you will be looking at the revelation of a holy and just God who says that he will not leave the guilty unpunished.

Because of the wrath of God that we deserve, we cannot become thankful people just by making a list of the blessings that God has given us:  like your family, your job, the turkey you ate this past Thanksgiving Day, etc., 

There is only one way that we can become thankful people, and that is through the cross of Jesus, our Savior.  Jesus took upon himself at the cross the wrath of God that we deserve for our thanklessness.  Think about this, God himself took on human flesh and suffered the just penalty for our rejection of him.

When God did this, it was a far greater display of his goodness than the creation of the entire universe.  Through the creation, God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen, but through the cross, God’s justice and his grace are clearly seen.  

We criticize these pagan gentiles for their failure to see God’s gracious benefits to them in creating them for his glory, and yet so often we fail to see God’s grace and love displayed to US when he REcreated us for his glory, at the cost of his own Son, Jesus.

So how can we experience the blessing of thankfulness?  We do it by living a cross-centered life.

 

Thank God every day for the Cross

I began a practice some time ago that should be second-nature to all of us as Christians, and that is to thank God every day for what he did for us at the cross.  I’m sad to say that I don’t yet have this godly habit ingrained in my life like I wish I did, but by his grace, I will!  May not a day go by that I don’t thank my Lord for his death for me on the cross.  

I need to keep this always before me, that I am a sinner, deserving of God’s condemnation, but instead receiving his mercy.  I deserve hell, but I get heaven.  I deserve separation from God, and instead he adopts me into his family and cherishes me as he does his only begotten Son!!! Imagine the difference it will make in your life if you are meditating EVERY DAY on the wonderful grace of Jesus expressed to you at the cross!

And as I thank him for my salvation, may it remind me not just of the fact that I am SAVED, but of what an infinitely GOOD God he is!  

 

Thank God for good gifts  

Every good gift that comes into your life is due to the cross of Christ!  When God blesses you as his child with ANYTHING, no matter how small, remember this.  If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross for you, he would not be blessing you now with that meal, or that car, or that relationship, or anything.  Let every good thing that comes into your life remind you of this.  It is all because of Jesus’ cross.

You may wonder, “But what about those who are NOT followers of Christ?  Where do the benefits in THEIR lives come from?”  The answer is the same, from the cross of Christ, and just like the pagan gentiles in Romans 1, those who are not followers of Christ will be held accountable for their failure to give thanks to God for everything that they have been given.

 

Thank God for difficulty

Not only are the good things that come into your life through the cross of Christ, so are the difficult things.  Peter said in 1 Pet. 4:13, Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  God has promised us that our sufferings are not without a point.  He promises in 2 Cor. 4:17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

There is a pernicious lie in the church today that a life of obedience and submission to God means that everything will go well for you, you will never suffer.  But the promise of the gospel message of the cross is that we are blessed to share in Christ’s sufferings, and for that we can be thankful!  

Sometimes God removes his temporal blessings to show us that the greatest blessing we have is  HIMSELF!

 

Get rid of distractions from the cross

Finally, and probably most important of these four suggestions, is to rid your life of everything that is a distraction from the cross of Christ.  We fill our lives with so much activity, with so much entertainment, with so much busyness that we simply don’t have time to live a cross-centered life.  Even God’s good gifts can become idols in our lives if they keep us FROM God rather that directing us TO God.  

Don’t expect to become a thankful person just by adding these first three suggestions to a life that in all other respects shows no desire to know God as he has revealed himself at the cross of Christ.  The overall movement and direction of your life must be toward Jesus if you are to live a cross-centered life.  

When Jesus died on the cross he accomplished our RECONCILIATION with God.  That is the gift he has given us–the way is opened once again for us to have fellowship with God.

Would you not agree that the greatest thanklessness that a person could express would be to fail to appreciate and use and enjoy the gift that they have been given?  Which hurts more, kids?  When your brother or sister unwraps that toy that you spent all your allowance to buy and immediately begins playing with it, but forgets to say “thank you”?  Or when he opens it, and then casts it aside disinterested, looking for the next present?

Do you want to be a thankful person?  Enjoy the gift that God has given you–HIMSELF!

I heard about a missionary wife who had been without her husband for almost 10 weeks as he toured in the churches.  On the day he was to arrive home, a huge package arrived for this lady by delivery truck.  It was from her husband.  She was so disappointed.  She didn’t just want a present, she wanted HIM, and when she opened the box… out he popped!

That’s what God has done for us.  He has reconciled us to himself.  He has given himself to us!  What goodness he has shown us!  Let us thank him!

 

This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.

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