Thanksgiving Seen Through the Gospel

November 22, 2022 | Jeff Patton

Each year on the 4th Thursday of November, we pause to celebrate Thanksgiving. In doing so, we at least give a nod to the Pilgrims and Indians as they prepared for their 1st winter in the New World in which they found themselves. Our modernized version includes what is often called the “4 F’s”…food, family and football—plus a fried turkey!

But for the Christ follower, Thanksgiving goes back long before the Pilgrims to a story as old as creation. It’s a story that continues into the present that gives great meaning to our lives and in doing so, reminds us of an undervalued virtue called “gratitude.” We could call it The True Story of Thanksgiving, or better yet, Thanksgiving Seen Through the Gospel.

Created for Thanksgiving: God created men and women for gratitude. We exist to honor God by giving Him thanks. We are to be both thankful for who He is and what He does. This was to be the norm, but we instinctively know this is not how humans naturally live.

The Apostle Paul tells us exactly what’s gone wrong in Romans 1:21, “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.”

What started in the garden with gratitude quickly turned into thanklessness and far worse.

Fallen from Thanksgiving: Not only did the 1st man and woman fail miserably in giving thanks to God, but we followed them down the same path. Ann Voskamp in her book, One Thousand Gifts, puts it this way:

“From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story."

Adam and Eve are simply and painfully ungrateful for what God gave. And if we think about it, isn’t that a major catalyst of sin?  Voskamp again says, “Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”

Satan generates thanklessness in Adam and Eve, and in each generation that follows. Both before our coming to Christ and after, we can too often be an ungrateful people.

Redeemed by Thanksgiving: God Himself, in the person of Jesus, entered our thankless world, lived in perfect thankfulness of His Father, and died on our behalf for our deep-rooted ingratitude. It is Jesus, the God-man, who has personified the perfect life of thankfulness. The scripture makes this argument by avalanche:

“At that time (note the context of unrepentant and unthankful “cities where most of his mighty works had been done,” verse 20) Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” - Matthew 11:25/ Luke 10:21

“They took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me." (Jesus then raises Lazarus from the dead.) - John 11:41

“Jesus took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples…”  - Matthew 15:36

“Our “Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it…” - 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

Jesus is not only God but also the perfect thankful human. The God-man not only dies to forgive our failure in giving God the thanks He’s due, but also lived the sinless life of gratitude on our behalf toward His father.

Freed for Thanksgiving: Finally, by placing our trust in Christ’s death on the cross, we are redeemed from ingratitude and its penalty of hell and freed to enjoy the pleasure of great thankfulness for God’s favor toward us as ones He created, but also as His redeemed people. As redeemed rebels, we are to live daily with an ongoing posture of gratitude toward the one who bought our redemption with His blood that is more precious than silver or gold.  Amazing grace produces continual thankfulness. Again, Paul often challenges and exhorts us as God’s people to live lives marked with thanksgiving:

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” - Colossians 1:11-12

“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” - Colossians 2:6-7

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” - Colossians 3:15-17

Only in the Lord Jesus can we express the gratitude owed our creator. It is what we were made for. It is what He is making us for. It will be the final and eternal posture of all of God’s people as we give thanks and worship Him forever and ever. Amen and Amen!

From all our Elders and Staff at Fellowship, we hope you have an incredible Thanksgiving as you give thanks to God for both your physical and eternal blessings.