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November 26, 2017 Thankfulness

 

Our scripture reading this morning is Ephesians 5:15-21.  READ. PRAY.

 

Last time we saw that being grateful, or being thankful (same thing!), is something that arises within us when we have a right estimation of who we are and of what is due to us both from God and from men. What is that estimation? It is a realization and acknowledgment of our undeservedness. We deserve nothing from God nor any other person because of the way we are. When we come to know that we are undeserving and we no longer expect good things then we become grateful when the favor of God and the gifts of others are given to us.

 

We also saw that we should be grateful for our country, for our church, for our family, for our friends and, especially to God who gives us these things.

 

When we are grateful it:

 

  • Makes us appealing to others.
  • Brings us a sweetness to our own souls – it makes us appealing to ourselves!
  • Makes love and obedience real.

 

What marvelous benefits are these!

 

Let us consider some other important benefits of being thankful.

 

Paul begins this chapter by commanding us to be imitators of God. This is our calling and our purpose: to be imitators of God, to be an expression of the living God as Christ was when his blessed feet trod upon the dirt of our sin-cursed world. Our calling is to be imitators but not in merely in a way that observes and copies. We become imitators in the way of life, by Christ indwelling us and changing us from within.

 

Though this transformation takes place by a power not our own, yet we still need participation, cooperation, and discernment. In verse 10 Paul encourages us to try to discern what the will of the Lord is. We participate in our own transformation by arising from a dead state and having Christ to shine upon us.

 

In view of all these things we are to “look carefully how we walk.” We should walk (that means live) in a wise way, making the best use of our time.

 

Remember who Paul is writing to: the saints who are in Ephesus, those who are faithful. He is writing to those who already belong to him. He is writing to us.

 

The Ephesians needed Christ to shine upon them and we need Christ to shine upon us.

 

  • When he tells us to look carefully how we walk, this implies that we may walk uncarefully.
  • When he tells us not to walk in an unwise way, this implies that we may walk unwisely.
  • When he tells us to make the best use of our time, this strongly implies that we may waste our time.
  • In verse 17 he commands us not to be foolish. Need I say that we can be foolish?

 

How do we walk carefully, walk wisely, avoid foolishness, and make the best use of our time? The second half of verse 17 tells us the first thing we must do: understand what the will of the Lord is. This is why, among Evangelical Protestantism, that primacy is given to the meditation and exposition of Holy Scripture in the time of worship: so the will of the Lord is made known.

 

And I hope that this is not the only time of the week that you assimilate God’s word. We need to know His will daily.

 

Verse 18 gives both a negative and a positive command. The negative is do not get drunk. Paul wrote this because everyone around the Ephesian church was getting drunk. It was a popular pastime. The Ephesian saints were in danger of being influenced by those around them. Two thousand years has not changed human nature. Getting drunk is still a popular pastime and people still come under the influence of their companions.

 

The positive command is: be filled with the Spirit. This is the key of being an imitator of God. This is the way to express God! We need to be filled with the Spirit!

 

Paul tells us how to do that in verses 19 through 21. He gives us three things to do that will facilitate the presence and filling up of the Spirit.

 

  • We speak to one another in psalms and hymns with melody in our hearts.
  • We give thanks.
  • We submit to one another.

 

Since Thanksgiving is upon us we will leave two for another time and speak about giving thanks.

 

It is good to observe three things about the importance of giving thanks.

 

[I] First, it is one of the means by which we are filled with the Spirit, as we have just alluded. Many things, even important things, can be done without the Spirit. Even reading the Bible, an essential of the Christian life, can be done in a dry and dead way. But it is hard to give genuine thanks and not be filled with the Spirit.

 

We can do nothing without the filling and power of the Spirit. Even giving thanks comes from God. But there is a mystery how the Spirit works in conjunction with the human will. We do not fully understand it, but we do know that the Lord still uses our human will to bring in the Spirit with the fullness of the divine blessing. We must choose to give thanks.

 

If you only give thanks when you feel like it you will miss the Spirit.  Neither should we give thanks grudgingly.  We must recognize our undeservedness and genuinely be grateful for the things that we receive.  These things are under the rule of our minds and wills.

 

We must choose to give thanks and then the Spirit flows! Praise God! He does!

 

Therefore, giving thanks is crucial to living victoriously, because we need the Spirit!

 

[II] Secondly, we ought to give thanks to God the Father, not only in good times but at all times. Not only for good things, but for all things. It goes without saying that we ought to thank  God for those things that are obviously to our benefit. Although, even this is not practiced as often as it should be.  (Have you thanked God this morning for something?)

 

Not only should we give thanks to the Living God, but we should give thanks to all those who do things for us, even little things, because God most often blesses us through people.

 

A long time ago I had written some tracts and one of them made it into the hands of a young man who was attending a Youth With a Mission training center. The training center was 200 miles or so from where we lived but he had just moved to our town and called, wanting to meet me and talk about the tract. So we had him over for dinner and we established a friendship. Since he was single we had him over for dinner quite often – once or twice a week. He was a pleasant fellow and had a real desire to know the Lord’s will. But we noticed something peculiar. He never thanked us for the meals or the fellowship. We were not offended and continued to have him over for months. Eventually, I spoke with him about it and suggested he thank Josie for all the cooking that she did. That night, of course, he did. But soon, he was back to his old habit of not giving thanks.

 

That brother was not an exception. It seems that young people in general do not express gratitude for the many things that people do for them. Even though many do not give thanks, most recognize that they should if you bring it to their attention.

 

I am speaking of giving thanks for those things that are to our benefit. Even if people fail to give thanks, they recognize that they should when they receive a benefit. But the apostle writes, to give thanks “always and for everything.” That is quite all-inclusive!

 

The reason we should give thanks always and for everything is because God loves us and is working everything to our good, even the bad things.

 

A farmer had only one horse. One day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his loss because they recognized his great need for that horse to do his meager farming. That horse was the source of his livelihood. They said, “It is a terrible thing.” The farmer said, “It seems so. But we don’t truly know that it is. It might not be.”

 

A month later, the horse came home. This time, bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely, strong horses! The farmer asked, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”

 

While training the wild horses, the farmer’s son was thrown from one and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. This was worse than the loss of the first horse because the son did more work on the farm than the horse. Such bad luck! The farmer asked, “Are you sure it is bad?”

 

A war came and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. The farmer said, “We shall see if this is good.”

 

This story well illustrates that we are short-sighted. We cannot see past the hour in which we live. God knows the future and He knows what is best for us. He knows what circumstances will arise from the present set of circumstances.  And, he allows those things in our lives, even the negative things, for our good.

 

Praise God! Praise him for his goodness towards you! Praise him for his love towards you!

 

We should give thanks to God the Father, not only in the good times, but at all times. Not only for the good things, but for all things. Even at the worst of times, we should give thanks to God the Father.

 

[III.] Last, Ephesians 5:20 tells us to give thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we must say the words, “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” when we give thanks. The reality of the name of the Lord is His Person. To be in his name is to be in His Person, in the Lord himself. This means that we should be one with the Lord in giving thanks to God. Another way of seeing this is to know that the Lord is not after you independently giving thanks, maybe even grudgingly giving thanks. A person might think, “I am supposed to give thanks, so I am going to go ahead and do that. Thank you, Lord, for such-and-such.” That is not His goal, although even that would be better than not giving thanks.

 

The Lord is after a oneness with him as you give thanks.

 

This Thanksgiving weekend one of the television stations is having a Star Trek marathon. They are playing every Star Trek episode from most, if not all, of the many Star Trek series. I used to be a Star Trek fan, so I watched a couple. In a Next Generation episode, Captain Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) and Dr. Beverly Crusher (played by Gates McFadden…those Irish are everywhere!) are kidnapped and put into an alien prison cell. The aliens think that they are spies and want to learn about their intentions so they implant these devices into the back of their necks that reaches their brains and will allow them to read their thoughts eventually. However, there is a period of time for adaptation. So, they leave them in their prison cell for a while. This gives them the opportunity to escape, which they do.

 

As they are travelling through the wilderness, trying to get to an area that is controlled by a more friendly group of aliens, they begin hearing each other’s thoughts. Those thoughts become interesting because they have secretly liked each other for some time. It isn’t until this adventure that they begin to know one another more deeply. Of course, they are drawn closer to one another emotionally as well.

 

They finally make it back to the Enterprise and the devices are removed. But they will never be the same.

 

This is the way we need to be with the Lord Jesus. He already knows our thoughts but we must become more one with Him so that we know his desires and thoughts. The Lord wants you to be thankful and, by expressing thankfulness in oneness with the Lord Jesus, he is very pleased. And, you will be too!

 

What have we seen? The apostle has revealed three things that we can do to be filled with the Spirit. There are more than three, but there are three that are revealed in Ephesians 5. They are:

 

  • We can speak to one another in psalms and hymns with melody in our hearts.
  • We can give thanks.
  • We can submit to one another.

 

What is the easiest? It is definitely not submitting to one another! That is the hardest thing to do! If we did it we would find the presence, the fellowship, of the Holy Spirit in greater measure. Herding cats might be easier than submitting.

 

In order to speak to one another in psalms and hymns we must either have the words of hymns and psalms memorized, or carry a hymnal around with us. Who does that? It would be good if we did those things, but most of haven’t done them – excepting Psalm 23.

 

But we can all give thanks! It is easy! When we do we will find that we are filled with the Spirit.

 

Let us give thanks at all times for all things. Let us be one with the Lord Jesus as we do.

 

If we would begin giving thanks we would discover that nothing is the same. Everything is better. It is not just that things will appear to be better. Being thankful is not an illusionist’s trick in some Las Vegas show. When we are grateful things are better because that is the way things really are! Things are much better than we feel they are or think they are. We will see reality!

 

Many of us are caught up in the Matrix – an unreal representation of the way the world really is. The key to escaping from the Matrix is called Gratitude.

 

Here is the key. Take it. Unlock the door and step through.