Extended Scripture Memorization
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Returning Thanks

Series: Christmas Season

Returning Thanks

November 29, 2020 | Andy Davis
Luke 17:11-19

Pastor Andy Davis preaches an expository sermon on Luke 17:11-19. The main subject of the sermon is how we should return thanks to God in response to the wonderful gift of salvation.



I'd like to ask that you turn in your Bibles to the Word that we just heard, Luke 17. And I do wanna say it's a joy and delight to be able to be back here preaching at First Baptist Church. For those of you who don't know me, and even for those of you who do, I'm Andy Davis. I'm senior pastor of First Baptist Church and delighted to be here. Been away for three months on a sabbatical, it was a very productive, fruitful time, but I'm so delighted to be back, be able to share God's word with you. Now, God willing, my plan is to resume the series, the expository series that I have been in, in 1 Corinthians next week, 1 Corinthians 15, right in the middle of the mighty resurrection chapter. There's so much to get out of that, looking forward to that, resume that next week. But as I came back, I just wanted to spend some time on this theme of Thanksgiving, and so we're gonna look at Thanksgiving.

As I look around in our world today, I look around at what's going on, we're not all of us un-mindful of what a challenge the year 2020 has been, certainly COVID has been always in front of us, we're mindful of the effect that it's had on individual lives, the suffering and sorrow it's brought to certain families, people we know and love, and even those that we don't. We've heard about numbers that rise, we're aware of that and our responsibility to be praying for an end to this pandemic, for a cure, for whatever medical insights God could give to researchers, we thank God for those that are doing those things, even many of them that we know personally that are skillful in that, we pray that they would be successful. But I also think about just our mission in the world, and we're called on to be light, a light shining in a dark place. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl or under a bushel, instead they bring it out and put it up on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” And we are called on, as Jesus said, that we are called on to be the light of the world. And as I think about the theme of today's sermon, the issue of thanksgiving, of thankfulness, I realize what a vital issue that is.

You know our culture, our American culture, our society just passed through the holiday known as Thanksgiving, but it's sad sometimes for me to hear how that holiday is discussed by people who don't know the Lord; and there just seems to be a fundamental confusion about it. For me, I think as a Christian, I'm very, very aware of the vertical aspect of Thanksgiving, of looking upward to our Creator, and our Redeemer, and joy giver, and giving him thanks for everything. We Christians know, as James 1:17 says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who doesn't change like shifting shadows.” Every good gift, every perfect gift comes from God, from our Father. And so, therefore, we have the joy of looking upward again, and again, and thanking God for the blessings of our lives, and we are surrounded by people who just don't know about that. They think that it's about thanking ourselves, thanking one another, and I think that it is good manners and it is right for us to thank people who have blessed us and have helped us, and we should do that. And if you wanna do that on Thanksgiving, do it, I do it. And I think it's a good thing to do, but for us as Christians, we know that that's not where the holiday primarily rests, we look upward. And also Romans 11:36, heard that in BFL this morning, wonderful study in Romans, and I just love Romans 11:36, which says, "For from him and through him, and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever, amen." So that's the same as James 1:17, the idea that everything that we have in our lives has come to us through our Heavenly Father through the goodness of God, so it is right and proper for Christians, I think, to lead the way in giving thanks.

I. Thankfulness and Thanklessness on Timeless Display

Now, I chose this text this morning, Luke 17, that you just heard read so beautifully, and I wanted to do this because I wanna look at both sides of the equation today. I think it is right for us to look at both thankfulness and thanklessness. I wanna understand these things, and I'm going to... Damon did a good job reading, but I wanna go ahead and read Luke 17 again and get our minds oriented to this and then just unfold it as the Spirit leads. Luke 17:11-19:

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee, and as he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” When he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him- and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And then he said to him, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well."

So let's set this in context, look at the location right from the beginning, Jesus is traveling along; he's at a border village between Galilee and Samaria. We know from other texts in the New Testament that the Jews hated the Samaritans and didn't have anything to do with them. They consider them, we find out in other ways, half-breeds, previous generations of Jews, nominal Jews, perhaps that had intermarried with Gentiles after the exile to Assyria, and then also the exile to Babylon, and they had perverted, they believed, the Jews believed the true religion of Moses, the true religion of God, and were not following it. However much that the Jews hated the Samaritans, we would have to say they hated lepers even worse.

Leprosy was- seems the most dreaded contagion of Jesus' day. Everyone was terrified of that disease; everyone was terrified of getting leprosy. It degenerated the human body, turning it into a disgusting living corpse. Lepers were shunned from all society, and they gathered into remote and terrible places like caves, and desert areas, and other hovels far from human society, away from family and friends. And they would have to stand at a distance if they ever got near somebody who didn't have leprosy, or wasn't one of their community, and they would have to cry out "unclean, unclean." They were not welcome at the temple area, they were not welcome in the synagogue, and so they had to stay away. So these 10 lepers were in that lamentable condition, living their tragic lives together in some kind of community. And desperate to escape their plight, to be cured, to be cleansed, and to return to normal society, to normal life, the text says, "They stood at a distance."

Now, they had heard, I believe, of Jesus' power over all diseases. There was not a single disease that Jesus could not cure. We have some amazingly talented medical professionals in our church and also in our area, a lot of our brothers and sisters, experts in the medical world, and specialists too, some of the best in the world, but I think all of those that I know so well would not be offended if I say Jesus knows your specialty better than you do. There's nothing about your specialty he doesn't already know, and there was no disease that was too difficult for Jesus. Effortlessly brought healing to people. Perhaps these lepers had heard specifically of a healing he did very early in his ministry of a leper. The account is in Mark chapter 1, where it says,

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said, “be clean.” Immediately, the leprosy left him, and he was cured. And Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning, “See that you don't tell this to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” But, instead, the man went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town or village openly but stayed outside in lonely places, but the people still came to him from everywhere.

So this was a very famous healing of a leper. So perhaps these 10 men came to Jesus with some hope that he would cleanse them, that he would have pity on them, and they cry out to him, "Have pity on us." They were calling to Jesus' astonishing compassion for outcasts, his heart of mercy, it's just moved toward human suffering. Our tendency, my tendency is to go away from human suffering, Jesus just went toward it, and so his heart melted with compassion. He also is a law unto himself, the exception to the law that he should not touch a leper. It's no problem for Jesus to touch a leper. Because I think at the moment Jesus touches the leper, he's not a leper anymore. I think of it in terms of two rooms, adjoining rooms, one of them brilliantly filled with light, the other in total darkness and a door between the two, and you throw open the door, and the light wins, it just floods into the darkened room, and they're both lit, that's Jesus. And so he just is filled with life, in him was life, and the life was the light of men, and he just could touch a leper, and they're both equally free from leprosy.

And so Jesus works this miracle. Jesus did miracles in many different ways; it wasn't the same thing every time. So in the case of that leper in Mark chapter 1, he chose to touch the leper, and this is his normal way. This is the normal aspect of Jesus' ministry: he wants a personal encounter with the people he's healing, generally. He wants to touch Peter's mother-in-law. He wants to find out the woman who touched the hem of his garment. He wants that interaction, and he generally heals one at a time, which is really at one sense inefficient. I mean, he could just have a quick day of it, you know, 5,000, 10,000 people, "You're all healed, go home," and they would be. But instead, he wants that one-on-one encounter; he wants a relationship with you and with me. He wants to look you in the face. He wants you to look him in his glorious face. He wants that intimate relationship. So with that, he healed them by touch. Other miracles, he's not even in the vicinity, he's not even there, John chapter 4, the royal official's son, he's healed remotely, and the man has to like corroborate the time and finds out, "Yeah, that was yesterday at the same time," and his son is healed. He wasn't even there, same thing with the Syro-phoenician woman's demon-possessed daughter. That's an amazing healing to me, I love that healing story because you know how the woman throws herself before Jesus, he doesn't talk to her, but then, in the end, he says, "Because of your statement, you may go, the demon has left your daughter." Bang! Just like that! But what happened? What was the modality? How did it occur? He didn't touch her, He didn't say anything, he didn't... He just thought it, just thought it, and the demon's gone. So He does it in a lot of different means.

In this case now, we got 10 lepers, and he tells them, just like the one in Mark 1, "Go show yourself to the priest." And they're not cured as they begin the journey, they've got to turn and begin walking, and while they're on their way, they get cured. It's really interesting, isn't it? How God just does different things on different days with different people. He never changes, God never changes, he's immutable, but his ways with us are different at different times. And so it reminds me of Joshua and the nation of Israel crossing the Jordan at flood stage, opposite Jericho, you remember that? They had to step into the Jordan River, and then the water divided and they went over on dry ground. So step into the water, see what God does. And so the lepers had to step out in faith, they had to begin the journey, they had to obey Jesus, and then en route, the cleansing happened.

Well, all 10 of them were equally cured, all 10 of them, Jesus' power went out in every case, but one of them noticed that he was cleansed and wanted to return thanks, that's the name of this sermon, “Returning Thanks”, he wanted to go back to the one who gave the gift. I don't know how he knew; maybe he felt it in his body, like the woman with the issue of blood felt in her body that she was cured. Maybe he looked at his hand, you know you hear terrible stories about what leprosy does to people's bodies and how they lose members of their body, digits even, fingers or horrible bleeding sores, that kind of thing, and he looks down, and just like happened in Elisha's time with Naaman the Syrian, remember, it said that his flesh was cleansed and became clean like that of a young man. Isn't that amazing? Some of you would be like, “I'd like that, whole-body makeover, if Jesus would just do that to every member of my body, how handsome I would be, how beautiful I would look.” But in this case, maybe just looks at his hand, maybe he was, we don't know, missing a digit or two, but they're back just like Malchus' ear that was hacked off by Peter when Jesus arrests him. Jesus made him a new ear! It's just effortless. So he realized he was cleansed, and he went back, and there was one thing that filled this man's mind. One thing, thankfulness, "I must go back and thank God, I must go back and thank Jesus." And so he does, verse 15-16, "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him- and he was a Samaritan." Now, this is a beautiful picture, isn't it? Of a truly thankful person. His heart is filled with gratitude. His body is immersed in a moment of worship, and he's there, giving glory to God in the person of his Son, his only begotten Son. He falls at Jesus' feet and thanks God.

Now, in falling at Jesus' feet, and this happens numbers of times in the Gospels, you get the feeling that he's worshipping Jesus as God, and that's completely appropriate, for he is God in the flesh. But you also have a sense that he's going up through Jesus the mediator thanking Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth for this healing. So this demeanor, dear friends, I want you to picture it, 'cause it's the point of my whole sermon. This is it; this is the moment. This is why I'm preaching, that you would do the same, that you would go back to Jesus and thank God for what he's done for you, that your heart would be overflowing with gratitude, with thankfulness to Jesus for what he has given you.

"That you would go back to Jesus and thank God for what he's done for you, that your heart would be overflowing with gratitude, with thankfulness to Jesus for what he has given you."

So that's a sweet picture. It's a positive picture. But we have to deal with the ingratitude, and Jesus addresses it. He uncovers it. Look at verse 17-18, "Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God, except this foreigner?’" Now, Jesus is underscoring the fact that nine out of 10 of these healed people never bothered to come back and say "Thank you" to God. Now, we might think that Jesus was, what we'll always say, jumping to conclusions. Right? We don't know. Maybe the nine were thanking God on the way. No, don't think that. Jesus is never wrong. He comments for a reason. They weren't thanking God. Jesus is different than us. It says very plainly in John Chapter 2:24-25, "Jesus knew all men, he did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man." He knew what was going on in their hearts, and they didn't thank God. The fact of the matter is because Jesus zeroes in on the fact that the nine never returned to give thanks to God, they actually didn't thank God at all, they just went on their way, happy and healed, and blessed, and thankless.

II. The Plague of Thanklessness

So we have to come to the negative part of this sermon, we have to walk around in the ugly place called ingratitude and thanklessness for a while, and study it, the plague of thanklessness. Every one of us, even the redeemed, even the most redeemed, displays a very lamentable pattern of thanklessness in our lives, consistent pattern. I asked a dear friend, a godly man if he thought this ratio of lepers, 1:10, represented his ratio of thankfulness, appropriate thankfulness to God for the blessings he's received. And he said, "One out of 10, really? 10%? No way. That would be on my best day on Earth. My most Spirit-filled day, I would notice 10% of the blessings God gives me in my life and thank him for it, maybe 1% is heading toward the reality or even worse." Time after time, day after day, we cry out to God for blessings. We ask him for healing, for our self or for others, we ask him for earthly blessings, financial blessings, blessings of success in various areas. We ask him for things. Time and time again, he answers. And it's amazing how many times he blesses us in answer to prayer, and it's just as amazing to me how many times he blesses us that we never prayed at all. But if he does answer our prayers, and even if he doesn't, but blesses us, how often do we forget to thank him, do we live out thanklessness? Now, we need to understand, all of us begin that way. Before the saving grace of God comes into our lives, we begin as thankless people. So we're surrounded by lost people who live out a consistent pattern, a comprehensive pattern, of thanklessness to Almighty God. Paul talks about it in Romans 1:21, he says, "Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." So lost people spend their days immersed in a godless world of their own making. The marvels of creation that surround them, they do not see the hand of a Creator that intelligently made those blessings; they don't see it that way. The delicious fruits that they savor, a succulent peach or a crisp tart apple they eat, and it hits their taste buds, and they don't think, "A loving Heavenly Father made this for my pleasure so I could enjoy it. Thank God for it." They don't think that way. Spectacular displays of foliage, my favorite time of year, fall, it's so brief though. I guess it's officially over, we put up our tree on Friday, so we're on to the next holiday, but I mean, it's still so warm and beautiful, and there's still foliage, and it's so beautiful. But, again, lost people are surrounded by these radiant beauties, the oranges, and reds, and that that fierce blue low humidity sky, you know what I'm talking about? On a beautiful fall day, crisp fall day is so pretty. And then at night, when you go out and look out, if you can get away from a population center, get away from what they call light pollution, and you look up and you can see the beauty of the stars, and it's so beautiful, and lost people don't see God in it, they don't see God the Creator. Their own bodies, which Scripture says, that God knit together intelligently, "fearfully and wonderfully made in their mother's womb," they don't give God credit for their own physical talents and skills. And when they do look up at the stars, and they see them, they might notice them, but they don't see God in it. Psalm 19:1-2 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day, they pour forth speech. Night after night, they display knowledge." But they don't see that, they don't hear that language. Unbelievers do not make room for the existence of God as they drink in creation. Psalm 10:4 says, "In his pride, the wicked does not seek him. In all his thoughts, there is no room for God." And so they don't thank God at all.

"Before the saving grace of God comes into our lives, we begin as thankless people. So we're surrounded by lost people who live out a consistent pattern, a comprehensive pattern, of thanklessness to Almighty God."

Now, years ago, Christie and I hosted a couple to our home, a man and his wife, and the man was a PhD student at Duke University. He was also a successful accomplished triathlete. He was a very accomplished, talented man. His wife had recently come to faith in Christ through a ministry in our church, much to this man's great annoyance. He was an agnostic, but he was willing to come eat dinner with us and to talk to me because his wife really wanted him to talk to me in hopes, I think, that I would be able to share the gospel effectively with him. But he was excited, I think, to win the debate with me, to come and play theology chess with me, or atheology chess... I don't know if... That's probably not a word; but that we could debate and he would win. And we were standing outside by the grill and grilling, and he successfully parried and blocked and diverted any persuasions or apologetics I would use, different things. I remember at one point I talked to him, I didn't say these words, but you know that old statement, "There are no atheists in foxholes." In other words, when you get into danger, when you get into extremity, you tend to go, cry out to God, "God help me," you know, you're skidding on black ice, and just say, "God," you're crying out to God, just... Well, he told me a very, very elaborate story of getting lost on a three-day camping trip out in California, and never once did he think of God, proud of that. So I'm like, "Alright," so we had this time together, at the end of the evening, the evening had come to an end, and he said to Christie, thanked her very sweetly and clearly for the meal, thanked me for the hospitality, and Romans 1:21 came in my mind. "Although they knew God, they didn't glorify God or give thanks to him." And he was very proud of his manners, proud of his thankfulness to Christie and me. "My momma raised me right," he said. I remember that. I said, "You know, actually, you have lived your whole life in God's living room, and you have eaten God's food, and you have drunk God's drink, and you've looked at God's scenery, don't you think you ought to have good manners and thank him?" It was the first part of the entire evening that he didn't have an answer, a quick answer. But we're no different. Apart from the grace of God, we would be thankless too. We're being converted out of a thankless state into an eternity of thankfulness. So even once we're converted, we struggle with thanklessness, with ingratitude.

There are two kind of thieves of thankfulness that I bump into again and again, one is entitlement and the other is envy. Let's talk about those briefly. Entitlement is, "I deserve the blessings I have. I earned these blessings. I worked hard for my degree, I earned my job, I earned my promotion, I earned the money that I have, I earned it; I deserve the blessings I have." Now, it's amazing how God cuts this one off at the pass with the Jews in Deuteronomy 8 before they even cross the Jordan, before they enter the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 8, God talks to them about this attitude in verse 17-18, "You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the Lord your God, for he is the one who gives you the ability to produce wealth." God had warned the Israelites when they went into the Promised Land and they ate crops they did not plant and they drank from vineyards they did not tend, and when they lived in the houses they did not build, that they would become arrogant and forget God and stop thanking him.

I think we American Christians need to worry about this; we need to be concerned about this. That we have been so lavishly blessed that we may think we're entitled to these blessings, we deserve to live in a free society, to have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, that we should have the right to elect our own governmental leaders. Do you realize the overwhelming majority of our brothers and sisters around the world do not have these blessings? We're not entitled to them, we have them, we ought to thank God for them, but we should not take them for granted or expect them, and therefore be thankless for them, entitlement. And I think with that comes expectancy, you're entitled to things you don't even have yet. I think this can be a problem for kids growing up in relatively affluent settings, that their parents, if they're not careful, can raise entitled kids, and so you think you're entitled to the latest electronics, or you're entitled to a certain standard of living. It's sometimes a wake-up call when you get your first job out of college, your first living wage job, and it's less than your parents made, and it's a big shock, [chuckle] and you're like, "Wow, I'm kinda starting out." "Yeah, you're starting in life, this is what we did, and so, yeah," but there's this entitlement. And it's hard to parent kids out of that entitlement expectation mentality, but it does sap thankfulness. It makes us thankless.

On the other side of it is envy. Envy is, "I'm jealous for the blessings another person has, I actually think I should have that blessing that I'm coveting, I think I should have that promotion that the other person got in my company, I should have that material possession." And so as a result, you look at your own possessions and you're just not thankful for them, and you're just discontent. I think about that story, "The Fisherman and His Wife" by Hans Christian Andersen. I think it's a funny story. This fisherman catches a magic fish, which is, he's a weird fish where he can do almost like supernatural, like to the nth degree things, but he needs help getting away from the fisherman, but anyway. So his wife is discontent living in a dirt floor hovel, as most of us would be, I think. So the fish grants the wish that comes from the wife through the husband, that she would live in a nice stone cottage with a little fenced-in area with some chickens, and the fish grants it. But then she's like, "Why do we settle for this? We could have had a manse, we could have had a nice home; we could have a second story and an orchard, and some things. Go back to the fish and ask for the next level." Well, this story keeps going, you know what happens, "We could have been in a palace, by this time, we could be King and Queen, we could be Emperor and Empress of the world." It just keeps going higher and higher. "We could rule heaven and earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars." It just never ends! Finally, the fish says, "Go back, you're back in the dirt floor hovel where you started," which, it's interesting about the fish, I wanna talk to the fish and say, "You got a lot of power, but if you could just do it better. If we could just cut it off at the pass," but it's a story of discontent, and you've got this situation and this circumstance, and you don't have something that you see your neighbor have, and you have envy, and it drains out thankfulness. So just stop right now and ask God to search your heart and say, "Have these thieves of entitlement/expectation or envy been draining off my thankfulness? Search me O God and know my heart. Show me and teach me, and show me if there's any offensive way in me. Lead me in the way everlasting." 

III. The Power of Present Thankfulness

So we've been walking around in the curse of thanklessness, let's now talk about the present, the power of present thankfulness. Let's go positive. And it begins for us as Christians with our salvation. Psalm 103:1-3 says, "Praise the Lord, oh my soul, all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins." Let's start with that. Could you not, dear Christian, brother, and sister, whatever age you're at, start and almost end with that? That you could go and throw yourself in your mind and your heart, at Jesus' feet and thank him for the full forgiveness of all of your sins, past, present, and future. That you are forgiven by God through the blood Jesus shed for you on the cross. We had worse than leprosy, spiritually. We were covered in guilt before the holy eyes of God, and there was nothing we could do to get clean, worse than leprosy. And we would be eternally excluded, not just from society, not just from the synagogue or from the temple area, or from friends and family gatherings; we would have been eternally excluded from heaven itself. We would have heard in reference to us, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." We would have heard that for us if our sins had not been forgiven, but they are forgiven for all who have trusted in Christ. And so we can go back and just fall on the ground before Jesus, maybe even physically. Go into your room, close the door, and fall on your face, like this leper did, and say, "Thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross for me for my sins." It's the single greatest blessing we have ever or ever could receive.

Do you remember the story early in Jesus' ministry of the paralyzed man and the four friends that are carrying him on the mat, remember that? And they can't get him to Jesus 'cause it's a huge crowd. So what do they do? They don't give up, they dig through the roof, remember that? They make an opening through the roof, and they lower the mat down right in front of Jesus. I wanna know, when I get to heaven, I wanna know how long that process took. It's just interesting, I actually would like to know if pieces of the roof fell down on Jesus while it was going on, I think about that, the level of effort these four men made, and they lower this man down, and there he is, paralyzed man in front of Jesus. What did they want? Easy. “What do you want?” “I wanna be able to walk like everyone else, so I can earn my own bread, so I can run through a field if I want to, I just wanna be able to walk.” But Jesus didn't address it; he didn't talk about it. He looked at the man and said, "Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven. Now, friends, come and get him and carry him home. I have blessed him with an infinite blessing, the scope and measure, and magnitude of which you underestimate right now, but when all is said and done, you will understand what I just gave you, even if you never walk again the rest of your life." And why did he heal him then? So that everyone around would know that the Son of Man had power on earth to forgive sins.

So just start there with the forgiveness of sins. This is the greatest blessing you could possibly receive, Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things?" Do you realize the logic of that verse is that there's Jesus given by God for your sins and everything else, and there's like an infinite gap, if he gave you that, everything else is as nothing compared to that. So all of the things that are making life irksome for you or annoying you or difficult for you, blessings you haven't received yet, whether healing, whether an earthly situation, a financial situation, etcetera, are infinitely below the gift of Jesus, God's only begotten Son on the cross for you.

And if you don't have some blessing, it's 'cause God thinks it's best for you not to have it yet, and he may give it to you, but he just knows what he's doing. He loves you, there's no lack of love, no lack of power, no lack of generosity, he will give you all blessings that will be a benefit for the salvation of your soul and the advancement of his Kingdom, he will give them to you. So this extends, this forgiveness of sins extends to all other spiritual blessings, all of them flow through the blood of Jesus, each one of them, adoption into the family of God, the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, in local churches, healthy local churches, all of these spiritual blessings flow through the blood of Christ to you. And you should thank God for them. Thank God for your own faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace are you saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it's a gift of God. Not by works so that no one can boast." You can just go to God and say, "Thank you God that I believe in Jesus. To God be the glory that I have faith. I'm not faithless, I'm not an atheist; I'm not an unbeliever. I thank God for my faith." You can thank God for your own obedience. Romans 6:17 says, "Thanks be to God that though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed that form of teaching to which you were entrusted." Romans 6:17, make it real simple. Thank God you obeyed. It's like, "Wow, I should give God credit for my own obedience?" Yes, you should. If it weren't for God's grace, you would be disobedient; but thank God you obeyed the gospel.

So all of these blessings have flowed. And what about perseverance? Some of you have been Christians for decades and decades. Some of you have been Christians for years and years, some of you Christians only for months and months, but from the moment you were genuinely born again until now, your soul has been under constant assault by the world, the flesh, and the devil. How is it then that you still believe in Jesus? Because Jesus has been at the right hand of God and has been interceding for you, that your faith will not fail, and it won't. So thank God for perseverance that you're still a Christian after all of these years, so many things.

Now it extends to temporal blessings. Look again at Psalm 103:1-5, "Praise the Lord, o my soul, all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Verse 3, we already covered, "who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with love and compassion. Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles." So beyond forgiveness of sins, you got physical healing, every disease you've ever gotten healed from, God healed you. I thank God that I didn't die in this pulpit in June, as I was preaching on heaven. I've said to friends, I think if there's any sermon I'd like to be preaching while dying, it'd be on heaven, I'd love to do that, but I thank God that I live. Now, I'm not in any way minimizing the skill of the cardiologist that saved my life, I'm not, but I thank God for my healing, he healed me. And all of you who have been healed have been healed by God, and what else? He satisfies your desires with good things, food, clothing, shelter, luxuries, necessities, experiences, friendships, they come from God. So forget not all His benefits. Thank God for these things.

Now, I believe this issue of Christian thankfulness is tied directly to Christian contentment, and I wrote a book on Christian contentment, and I don't think in the history of Christian literature, there's ever been a topic where the author needed to sit under his own book and do it and learn from it as that time. Contentment. Am I a content man? What about right now, Tuesday afternoon, right now? Are you content? Not really, it's amazing how discontent we could be. How can we, who find ourselves in a pattern of discontentment in life, grumbling and complaining, how can we get back on the path of being Spirit-filled, blessed people? I would commend the discipline of thankfulness. It's a great way to start. Thankfulness. Christian contentment is a matter of thankfulness. So you go back, you're in the middle of a circumstance, and you're complaining about something, something you think you should have and you don't. And then you just stop and say, "I'm not gonna do this, I'm not gonna murmur against God I'm not gonna complain, I'm gonna thank God for the blessings he's given me." I would commend this to you. People like that are incredibly attractive, surrounded by grumbling, complaining people, and there you are shining, shining with a buoyant thankfulness where you just keep talking the words of thankfulness, "I'm just so thankful to God. Thankful to God."

I would say it's a remedy in certain marriages that are struggling. Start by thanking God for your spouse, thank God for him or her, thank God for his or her gifts or blessings. Be thankful. Do the same thing in the parent/child relationship. Parents, thank God for your children, thank God for the time you have with them, it's limited; it flies by. And you children, you teens, thank God for your parents, pouring the gospel in you, bringing you to church, loving you, just thankfulness is a quick way toward Christian contentment.

IV. The Eternal Future of Thankfulness

Now, one last point I wanna make before I'm done. I've had the joy over the last three months of working on my book on heaven, and it's been exciting, this is a little sub-theme that I think is pretty cool, I call it, "The final point," it's the eternal future of thankfulness. Remember I told you about that brother that humbly said, "I don't think I thank God for 10% of my blessings, I probably don't thank God for 1%"? How would you like a do-over on that? How would you like a do-over? How would you like a chance for God to reveal in heaven how he blessed you in life, and a chance to thank him for his many blessings, eternally? And not just, you'll be so freed from self-focus in heaven, so freed from selfish- you get to thank God for blessings that you never received that were given to a brother or sister, thanking God for that marriage, or that parenting relationship, or that circumstance, or the opportunity they had to lead that person to Christ and just infinity of thankfulness. There is thankfulness in heaven.

In Revelation 4:9-11, it says, "Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say, 'You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being.'" I think, fundamentally, Thanksgiving is backward-looking, it's for a blessing you have received. I think you can thank God for a blessing you're going to receive based on the promise of God, but it's still kind of backward-looking, something good God has given you, and you go back and return thanks. For eternity, we're gonna get to do that, and we're gonna get to do it for things we didn't even know happened. We even get to do it for blessings given to non-Christians that they never thank God for, but we'll be able to give God credit and thanks. So I think the eternal infinite future of thankfulness is a rich, sweet blessing, but don't wait for heaven, friends. Don't wait for heaven. Thank God today. Thank God for the many blessings He's given you today. Let's close in prayer.

Father, thank you for the time we've had to study your Word, grateful for it. Thank you for these brothers and sisters and what they mean to me and to my family. I thank you for your Word that never changes. I thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit who illuminates the Word to me and to those that have had the chance to hear me today. I pray that we would take to heart these lessons; I pray that you would deliver us immediately from thanklessness, help us to be sweetly, richly, fully thankful people. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Other Sermons in This Series

God With Us

December 17, 2006

God With Us

Matthew 1:18-25

Andy Davis