MIND OF CHRIST (Part two)

We left our study last time with this statement: “Jesus, figuratively and literally, “bled” himself out for others as He took upon himself the role of a slave. He voluntarily set aside His rights for the salvation of His people for their eternal well-being. And the Apostle Paul is saying to the Philippian church and to us dear Christian, that that is how you ought to live, in a selfless, humble, others serving, God honoring way within this congregation.”

FOCUS ONE:

Moving forward, we will learn that there is more to all this than just the examples of humility (8). We are also brought to remember the incarnation of Jesus. By that, I mean, When God the Son became a man—The God-man, fully God and yet fully man!

The word: “fashion” or “appearance” or “being,” depending on your translation, is significant. John MacArthur writes: “The word “being” denotes that which a person is in his very essence – that which a person is in his nature. In other words, that which is true of a person that cannot be altered, it cannot be changed. That which someone possesses inalienably and unchangeably that cannot be removed. It refers to the innate, changeless, unalterable character and nature of a person. For example, men may look different, but they’re all men – that’s their nature. They all have the basic same elements of humanness, the functioning of breathing, and the heart, organs, mind, will, thought, emotion. These are the elements of humanness. You can change his clothes. You can do things to the physical form. But you never change the humanness. That is the being of man.”

 And that is the meaning of this term. And it says of Christ that He is in the being of God. He is, then, unalterably and unchangeably, God in His essence, in His essential being. That is the basis of our faith. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word” – what? – “was God.” But along with that, He was at the same time fully man. But don’t think of Jesus as less than fully human. Quoting MacArthur again: “He was fully human. Did people come into this world through the natural process of birth, through the womb of a mother? So, did He. Had others been wrapped in swaddling clothes? So was He. Had others grown up? So did He. Did others have brothers and sisters? He did. Did others learn a trade and work? So did He. Were other men at times hungry, and thirsty, and weary, and asleep? So was He. Were others grieved and angry? So was He. Did others weep? So did He. Did others rejoice? So did He. Were others destined to die? So did He. Did others suffer pain? So did He. Were others loved and hated? So was He. He was a man, in the form and the fashion.”

Luke tells us how this happened. Turn to Luke chapter 1:26 (read). In verse 34, Mary Asks, “how can this happen or be?” The angel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and with His power, with no sinful human male involved, He will grant this conception within her, and her child will be called the Son of God (vs.36).

Matthew tells us that this miracle, this salvation, was prophesied long ago. Matthew repeats what Isaiah wrote in 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign, behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (God with us). Paul is speaking from a position “after” the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

1 Peter 2:21,22 – We are told He lived without sin. In Hebrews 4:15,16 – We are told Jesus was tempted in all points like we are, but He did not sin.

Jesus was the only man ever to live without committing even one sin, so He is the only one who truly deserves to be counted righteous before God. Later we will see that this sinless life was necessary for Him to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

He taught with authority, healed many, delivered many from demons, served the multitudes, refuted pseudo-religiosity, pointed many to the Father in Heaven, and because of that:

Matthew 26:1-4,14-16 – Jewish leaders determined to kill Jesus because He had revealed their sins to the multitudes. Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, agreed to betray Jesus to His enemies for thirty pieces of silver.

Matthew 26:36-41 – After teaching His disciples how to partake of the Lord’s Supper in memory of His death, Jesus went to Gethsemane. There He prayed that He might avoid the suffering of the cross, but even so, He was willing to obey the Father’s will.

Matthew 26:47-56 – Judas came bringing soldiers to capture Jesus and showed the soldiers who to arrest by kissing Him. When Jesus refused to allow His disciples to defend Him, they all forsook Him and fled.

Matthew 26:57-67 – In the Jewish trials, Jewish leaders sought grounds to kill Jesus but could not find valid proof even with the help of many false witnesses. They ignored all the evidence that he was the Christ and convicted Him of making a blasphemous claim! Finally, they convicted Him of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Christ.

Luke 23:8-11 – Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who mocked Him and sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate (vv 13-16) then told the people that neither he nor Herod found any fault in Jesus worthy of death.

Matthew 27:15-26 – Pilate repeatedly stated that Jesus was innocent and tried to release Him, but the Jews refused. Pilate’s wife sent him a message saying she knew Jesus was innocent. But the Jews said they and their children would bear responsibility for His death, so Pilate called for Jesus to be crucified.

So what? Everyone dies eventually. To many people, Jesus’ death may not seem extraordinary. But His was the most important death ever to occur. It is essential to our salvation.

Hebrews 2:9 – Jesus tasted death for every man. He did not die for His sins – He didn’t have any sins. Nor was His death simply a miscarriage of justice. Jesus died for our sins.

1 Peter 2:24 – He bore our sins on the cross so that we could live to righteousness. He was a sacrifice. He was the sinless Son of God dying as a penalty for those of us who were guilty, so we could go free.

That is why Jesus needed to live a sinless life. If He had sinned, He would have to be punished for His sins. But because He lived a sinless life and did not deserve to die, He was able to suffer for others, people like us who did deserve to die.

FOCUS TWO:

Impressive as all this is, it is even more amazing to realize that He came to earth knowing all along that He would have to die for the sins of others. The Creator took the form of that which He had created to suffer as a sacrifice to save His own creatures. If Jesus had not died, none of us could be forgiven of sins. We would all have to die for our sins (Rom. 6:23). We can be saved (only) because Jesus died for us!

And what was God the Father’s response to this?

3. Glory in Christ (9-11)

a. God the Father exalted Him

Why? Because Jesus has taken upon himself a humble servitude that leads Him to death, even death on a cross, in which He willingly embraces degradation and misery, in which He willingly embraces humiliation of the most profound and most unique sort. And because of this (therefore), God highly exalts Him. And perhaps Paul is drawing our attention to the fact that there is a different kind of exaltation in God’s

One writer comments: “We see human beings, appropriately or inappropriately, exalted all the time around us, and usually it is because they possess certain qualities that set them apart from other people. They may be really smart, and so we praise them because they’re smarter than other people. Or maybe they’re better students, they work hard. It’s not that their brain cells are more blessed than somebody else’s brain cells, but they study really hard. And we set them apart, we give them titles and we give them degrees, and we give them honors for their academic prowess. And so, through their efforts and their native abilities, they are set apart.”

Paul wants these folks to notice how Jesus, who in all of those categories, was more worthy than anyone who ever lived, did not promote himself on that basis. And God did not exalt Him on that basis. He exalted Him because He embraced humility, and He embraced servitude of the most profound sort.

He was given a name above every other!

There is sooo much to this, but we don’t have the time to mine it all this morning. Let me make a few things clear. Dear reader, Jesus has always been the Son of God. Jesus did not become the Son of God for the first time in the resurrection or the ascension. Jesus has always been Lord. He has always been the second person of the Trinity. There was never a time when He wasn’t Lord, and then He became Lord. That’s not what the Apostle Paul is saying here. It’s just that now in the flesh, He has appeared, and in His flesh, He rendered such a service that God publicly owned and acknowledged Him and pronounced Him to be Lord. And Paul is telling the Philippians and us here that God does this precisely because of what Jesus has done in His humble service.

And then we notice: Everybody will confess He is Lord. 

Not only does Paul reveal in these words that every being in the universe will submit to Christ, but He also shows that there will someday be a universal confession that HE IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father!!

This fact was prophesied by Isaiah Back in Isaiah 45:23, and Paul is thinking about that prophecy and directing his readers to reflect on it.

To not willingly submit to Him put’s you, dear sinner, in an awful position. We are all equally rebels against him, whether we oppose him as Lord or whether we refuse to submit to his righteousness or his government. What will you answer to him when he calls you to account for usurping his office and making void all that he has done and suffered for you? — He has sworn, that unto him every knee shall bow; and, if you don’t do it willingly, you will most certainly do it against your will, to your everlasting sorrow.

But how different an outcome for those who submit to His rightful rule.

You are committed to his care, and he will not lose one of you; “not one shall ever be plucked out of his hands,” is the promise of scripture. Whatever you need, “his grace is sufficient for you.” “if you suffer with him. you shall also reign with him,” and “be glorified together with him [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12. Romans 8:17.]” in his kingdom forevermore!

Conclusion:

Dear reader, because of the effectual working of the gospel in our own lives, as undeserved as it is, and all that we enjoy because of it, shouldn’t that lead us to walk in unity, fellowship, and like-mindedness around this gospel within our local church family? 

Christian, Christ is our supreme example; his selfless love is an example to us. His humility and obedience are our encouragement, given by Paul, to strive for unity within their /our local church.

Friends, like all those who have gone before, you are undeserving of His love, His forgiveness, and His fellowship. You, like the rest, are a vile sinner in His eyes and should be cast off into outer darkness.

But, you have hope in this same Jesus! He came to this earth, endured the cross, despised the shame, died the death you should have died, bore your sins on that cruel tree, so that you, through Him, could be declared righteous and forgiven!

GRATITUDE AFFECTS ATTITUDE (PT 2)

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Philippians 2:1-4

BRIEF RECAP:

In our last study we noticed Paul’s approach with the Philippians. He’s not only warm and pastoral, but he’s also quick to first mention the blessings of the gospel before giving certain exhortations to help them understand the importance of striving for unity within their church. In this post we will continue our study of these first couple verses and look at his exhortations to these believers.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

FOCUS ONE:

Fellowship unites us (2-4) 

That is an interesting statement for Paul to make, “make my joy complete.” He expressed his joy over their salvation and participation with him in the gospel (1:4). He rejoiced at being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith (2:17). BUT what would bring his joy to it fullness? “unity in the bonds of peace.” What would thoroughly complete Paul in his ministry to this church is unity among their fellowship! 

In these verses, 2-4, I see two themes emerge: 

1. Fellowship 

2. Self-denial

In order for there to be biblical fellowship, within a church, there has to be like-mindedness, there has to be expressions of love, there has to be an understanding and grasping hold of “one purpose.” ALL of these things begin with what Paul was talking about in verse one: The saving, changing work of the Holy Spirit! We cannot have true God honoring fellowship with one another, if we do not have fellowship with the Spirit ourselves! Gratitude affects attitude!  

It is very clear in these verses that selfishness and empty conceit are polar opposites to self-less-ness and humility.  

Perhaps Paul’s mind is on Euodia and Syntyche. Later he writes urging them to be of the same mind. They were not maintaining their love for one another. They did not have the same purpose at heart. Selfishness or empty conceit may have been playing apart in their discord, and it was wreaking havoc within this church. It was so bad that Paul, many, many miles away, in prison, hears about it from Epaphroditus, most likely, when he was sent to serve Paul on their behalf.  

So, Paul, and it is an interesting observation, in the Greek, uses the imperative here. “Make my joy complete,” is a strong exhortation to begin doing something they were not presently doing.   

It could read: “Right now work at being of the same mind, right now begin maintaining your love for one another, right now start esteeming others better than yourselves. Right now stop being so selfish, stop being so prideful and share the benefits of your fellowship with Christ and His Spirit with your brothers and sisters in the Lord.”  

vss. 2-3 explains how Paul’s joy would be complete-Fellowship is fostered by people whole-heartedly agreeing with each other, loving one another, and working toward the same goal (Gospel unity, gospel witness). It necessitates self-less-ness, humility and a true regard for others that places their needs above our own.

Selfishness, empty conceit, double-minded-ness, always stifles gospel centered unity, always hurts others, always is disobedience to the Lord.  

This is what is burdening Paul; unity and the lack of it in this otherwise GOOD church. It seems that he frames the letter, with that issue.  For example, in the first chapter he speaks of it, verse 27, when he says, “I want you to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”  In chapter 4, the last chapter, he speaks of it in verses 1 and 2 when he says, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. And I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”  

So, in chapter 1 we see an urging toward one mind and one heart.  In chapter 4 another urging toward one mind and one heart -And then in the middle is this second chapter, and the opening verses of chapter 2 also deal with the issue of unity in the church.  This is a plea for unity.   

FOCUS TWO:

3. Unity strengthens us (2-4)   

Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are working and striving together to make the gospel known to the lost as well as living it out in community with one another?  

Can you imagine a church where the Christians are humble, serving one another allowing their Lord to encourage and comfort and show mercy to others through them?  

Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are obedient to Christ even when their feelings get hurt, or their ideas for ministry are not acted upon or done to their satisfaction?  

Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are “standing firm in one spirit, steadfast in their opposition to the enemy, unrelenting in their humility before God and others?

How strong would such a church be? It is true: “united we stand, divided we fall.”      

Christian, have you noticed any potential areas of disunity in your congregation? Have you sought to bring unity in that situation? 

Maybe there is someone in the congregation that you personally are in conflict with, how can the Elders help you through that?

Talk with another mature believer about it and work towards maintaining “unity within the bonds of peace.”  

Paul, in a way, is giving them, giving us, a blueprint for a strong, healthy, vibrant, fruitful fellowship within the local church, and it has everything to do with UNITY!  

BUT, this unity is all wrapped up in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ! We see that in verses 5-11. That will be my focus in my next post!  

Paul isn’t about to leave these people he loves dearly thinking that unity and love, God honoring fellowship, self-less-ness is something that they can do on their own in the flesh. He is not about to move on in his letter leaving these beloved people contemplating his exhortation without giving them an example.   

So, in order to enforce the earnest exhortations he had just given as to lowliness of mind and unselfish consideration of the things of others, Paul sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme example of this. His voluntary self-abasement, His incarnation, His obedience even unto the death of the cross. The passage combines Christian doctrine and Christian practice. The immediate connection is between the principle in Philippians 2:4, of having regard to the condition and needs of others, and this sublime example of Christ.” 

All that now follows declares how Jesus looked upon our dire needs as sinners. We are the “others” whose “needs” were the great object of His acting in grace. And it is His mind, as thus expressed, that is to be our mind.

His “attitude” was one of: self-denial (6-7) Humility (8) Obedience (8) 

And Paul lays before these loved ones the greatest example he could ever give. No one was more undeserving of love, forgiveness and fellowship than they were, then we are as vile sinners. Who were we that God should become man, lower Himself for a time, in order to redeem us and qualify us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light? (Colossians 1:12) 

And yet, He did. “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). 

Dear Christian, Christ is our supreme example, His selfless love is an example to us. His Humility and obedience even to the point of death are our encouragement, given by Paul, to strive for unity within their /our local church.

Friend, just like all those who have gone before, just like all of us sitting here today, you are undeserving of His love, His forgiveness, and His fellowship. You as the rest, are a vile sinner in His eyes and should be cast off into outer darkness. 

But, you have hope in this same Jesus! He came to this earth, endured the cross, despised the shame, died the death you should have died, bore your sins on that cruel tree, so that you, through Him, could be declared righteous! Forgiven!Reconciled! At peace with God, your creator! Please believe in Him and you “will” be saved!

GRATITUDE AFFECTS ATTITUDE

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Philippians 2:1-4

BRIEF INTRO:  

In preparing for this post, I read about a church that split, and that split began over an argument at a potluck supper when a lady brought a congealed salad she made with Cool Whip instead of real whipping cream. Can you believe it? 

In googling further, you can find where churches have split over whether the pianist should sit to the right or the left side of the podium; over whether the Lord’s Supper is served from the front to the back or the back to the front. Even over trying to decide whether a kitchen should be a part of the church building or not! 

We chuckle at these things but more googling revealed a story about a church that split over who was the actual pastor. They had two pastors. Two groups thought they each had their guy, and both of them got up to lead a service on Sunday. Both led the singing. Both groups tried to out-sing each other. Then both pastors started preaching, trying to out-preach each other. Finally, it just broke out into fistfights, and the police had to come in and break it up.  

That’s outrageous. And it just goes to show how “intentional” we must be at building and preserving unity among ourselves. These examples reinforce just how important our daily walk with Christ is. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to walk in holiness, love, and unity.  

BRIEF RECAP:

After Paul shared the fantastic work that the Lord was accomplishing in his imprisonment for “the greater progress of the gospel” (back in 1:11-26), He turned his attention off himself. He directed it towards them, the Philippian church.  

We saw in Chapter one, verse twenty-seven, that Paul was concerned about their conduct, that they, as regenerated sinners, now “in Christ” through His substitutionary atoning work, would conduct themselves or behave as citizens of Heaven should behave themselves. He exhorted them to live out their new salvation, in his words: “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And that is to be done even amidst conflict and suffering (1:29-30). 

I want to point something out here as we prepare to examine Philippians 2. This congregation of Christians at Philippi was a good church, and as Paul thought about them and even as he wrote to them, his thoughts and feelings were positive. The Philippians had a special place in his heart and he in their hearts. We see that throughout the letter.   

For example, in chapter 1, verse 3, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” “Every time I think about you I’m thankful.” Verse 4, “Every time I pray for you it is with joy.” Verse 5, “Grateful for your participation in the gospel, from the first day until now – consistency, endurance.” And then you’ll also notice in verse 8, he says, “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” There was genuine love between the apostle and this church. 

Chapter 1, verse 19, Commends them for their prayers. He mentions his fond memories of them. In chapter 2, verse 12, he says, “You have always obeyed, and I want you to continue to obey.” And he commends them for their obedience. They had a pattern of obedience. When he was there, they obeyed, and he wanted them to continue doing it even in his absence. 

Chapter 4 verse 16 he says, “It not the first time you sent me an offering; even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” (generosity) 

All of his thoughts about this church were positive; his feelings toward them were warm. In 1:5, when he affirms their participation in the gospel, he notes that they were genuine believers. Verse 7 speaks of their great courage because even in Paul’s imprisonment and “defense and confirmation of the gospel,” they stood with him as “partakers of grace.” Add to all this what John Macarthur points out: “There is a very obvious lack of doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was apparently no doctrinal deviation. They had not gone astray in terms of theology. They didn’t need to be corrected. There is no immorality in the congregation which is confronted in the epistle. So generally, this is a quality group of people. This is really a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.” 

But, despite all of that, there is lurking in that church a deadly snake with venom. And that deadly snake is the snake of disunity, discord, and conflict, which has poisoned many churches. 

I mention all of that because I think we are prone to assume that disunity and conflict wouldn’t be a problem in a strong church. That is not necessarily the case. One commentator made this point:  

“There is a sense in which this is the danger of every healthy church. You see, it is when people are really in earnest, when their beliefs really matter to them, when they are eager to carry out their own plans and their own schemes that they are most apt to get up against each other. The greater their enthusiasm, the greater the danger that they may collide,” (William Barclay)  

And that is why Paul’s writing to these believers is so helpful to us today. We do not want to be deceived into thinking disunity and discord cannot happen among us. 

We need to recognize the danger and be reminded of how we can promote unity and combat discord among ourselves as individuals and a church body. 

So, open up your bibles with me, and let’s read Philippians 2:1-4 together. 

2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in Spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

FOCUS ONE:

The first thing I want us to take notice of is this:  

1. Redemption changes us (1)  

Paul is writing these words in verse one, continuing his appeal in verses 27-30. He is building upon the theme of unity. Remember, he used the terms “standing firm in one spirit,” “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”  

In 2:2, he uses the same language. He says: “be of the same mind, maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”  

Paul wants these believers he loves dearly to express (live-out) the power, influence, and fellowship of the Spirit (benefits of the gospel) they received at salvation within their local fellowship. Paul is very aware of the situation between Euodia and Syntyche, and he addresses it later (4:2). 

Listen to how two other translations read in verse one:    

Barclay: “If the fact that you are in Christ has any power to influence you, if love has any persuasive power to move you, if you really are sharing in the Holy Spirit, if you can feel compassion and pity,” 

Phillips: “Now if your experience of Christ’s encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy.”  

Do you get the sense of what Paul is doing here? Notice Paul’s approach with the Philippians. He’s not only warm and pastoral, but he’s also quick to first mention the blessings of the gospel before giving specific exhortations to help them understand the importance of striving for unity within their church. 

Often we have that backward and see little results. We can learn from Paul’s example. 

But, we need to grasp the point Paul is making and the way he is making it. The “if” in these statements refers to certainties, not possibilities, and could be translated “since.” 

FOCUS TWO:

Let’s look at each one: 

The first reminder (Blessing) is that there is encouragement in Christ. We have the blessing of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:10) and being found in Him (Philippians 3:9). We have been given the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29). Does anything lift our spirits more than knowing we are in Christ? In any trial and suffering we go through, we find encouragement in our relationship with Jesus.  

Second, we have the consolation of love. This is presumably a reference to the love of Christ that comforts us. He is ours, and we are His. What comfort! It may also reference mutual love for one another that flows from this relationship with Jesus. This connection was made in Philippians 1:7-8. Paul loves the church “with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8). We know God’s love, and His love makes us love others.  

Third, we’re reminded that we share in the fellowship of the Spirit. The Greek word translated “fellowship” (koinonia) is the same word as in Philippians 1:5. The Spirit unites us as brothers and sisters (Philippians 1:27), partners in the gospel, and the Spirit helps in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26). Later Paul says that Christians worship God “by the Spirit” (Philippians 3:3). Paul is aware that disunity threatened the Philippian congregation, so he reminds them of the Spirit-produced fellowship they share.  

Fourth, we share affection and mercy. This affection (cf. Philippians 1:8) or “tenderness” (NIV) flows from our union with Christ. Christ has loved us with amazing tenderness. He has shown us infinite affection. Mercy or “sympathy” (ESV) or “compassion” (NIV) has also come to us from the source of all compassion- our great God (see Psalm 103; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:3). We share in a common experience of being the objects of God’s compassion. This tender care should cause us to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4) and serve sacrificially as illustrated by the life of Epaphroditus (Philippians Php 2:25-30; 4:18).  

So, Paul, so concerned for their unity, their love for one another, and an unhindered gospel witness from them reminds them, and in a way, I think, challenges them, to unselfishly share these benefits of the gospel with others. Freely they have been given, so freely give!

Applications: 

  1. Dear Christian, because of your being “in” Christ, you too share in these blessings (encouragement in Christ, comfort of love, fellowship in the Spirit, mercy, and compassion).
  2. How are they equipping you and aiding you in your daily walk? 
  3. Freely, by His grace, they have been given to you. Are you unselfishly sharing these benefits with your brothers and sisters in Christ? 
  4. Perhaps you are reading this today and do not know Jesus as your Lord and savior. You are not enjoying these blessings we are talking about. Your life may be in shambles, depression your only friend, why not look to Jesus? He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He can take the mess of your life and make beauty from the ashes. What keeps you from Him? 

Paul’s appeal to these folks seems to be this: “If life in Christ has changed you at all, and you are experiencing these blessings in your own life because of Jesus, Make my joy complete…”

THEOLOGY OF THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving day is just around the corner, and the thought of being with family and friends over the holiday elicits many fond memories of amazing food, laughter, game playing, football, and yes, a stomach in turmoil from overeating. I can remember all the meals that I enjoyed at my grandparents: uncles and aunts, cousins and the like, all gathered in one place to share a smorgasbord of tastebud tantalizing family specialities. As I think back on those days my mind flashes with picture after picture of the scenes, the people, and the happiness I felt at being together with loved ones in a warm home, while the chill in the air, and the trees all along the mountains, with their leaves wrestled away from their spot on the branches, forewarned us that winter was on the way.

I also can remember how my understanding of “thanksgiving” was more related to a day, that particular day on our calendar, rather than thankfulness for gifts received or any number of blessings I was enjoying in my life. “Thank you” was  an expected statement after receiving something and an ignorant sentiment at the kitchen table before we were able to indulge ourselves, at least for me it was.

Now that I am much older, hopefully far wiser, I have come to understand the importance of a thankful heart and the theology behind it. Biblical thanksgiving or thankfulness is not just a mere response to things that we have been given; God’s kindnesses towards us, but it is also our response to what we have learned about Him by receiving those kindnesses in our day to day living. We should be thankful for the gifts and the acts of kindness God chooses to bless us with, but we should also look beyond the gifts to the gift giver and think on what we can learn about Him, because it is there that we will find true thankfulness in our hearts.

Whether God blesses us directly or through others, we can, if we take the time, learn more about His Heart towards us. We can learn more about Him by seeing His attributes on display, His character and nature presented before us in ways we might have missed, if it were not for His benevolent spirit towards us.

This is what we find in the Bible. In any of the prayers that Paul offers in his epistles, specifically those of thankfulness, we find his joy and thankfulness are due to the grace, wisdom, and power of God working in the lives of people for their salvation and spiritual growth (Philippians 1:1-6; Ephesians 1:15-16; Colossians 1:3-5, for example). Another telling illustration of this is found in Luke 17:11-19, in the story about the ten lepers. One of the lepers, a Samaritan, when he realizes that he had been healed from this dreadful disease: “turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him” (v.16). This man fell down at the Lords feet in gratitude. His thankfulness became an act of worship! Yes, he is very happy at becoming clean again, but his greater joy seems to be in what he learned about Jesus through the healing.

Jumping back into the Old Testament, we see thanksgiving as a part of God centered worship, especially in the Psalms. I will share only two examples for the sake of time. Psalm 9 appears to be the first Psalm of thanksgiving. In it David praises God for His attribute of justice, and through this hymn of praise worships Him. In Psalm 30, David, through cycles of lament and praise, expresses his thankfulness toward God for healing him, protecting him, comforting him, hearing and answering him. Meditate on that a bit and you should quickly recognize some of the attributes of God that led David to worship Him though this Psalm.  

God is pleased when we recognize and acknowledge His kindness towards us in the things He provides. But I think He is even more pleased when we worship Him because of what we discovered about Him through His provision. Another writer, Pastor Trevor Bates, writing on the theology of thanksgiving, made this statement: “As we give thanks to God, we not only confess we should have nothing good apart from him (James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 4:7), but we also consider who he is.” Jesus should always be the “centerpiece” of our thanksgiving.

I have benefited from this book in my study on the topic of thanksgiving. For a small book, 82 pages, Pastor Bates has done an amazing job of bringing out the theology behind thanksgiving. By focusing on the Psalms he shows that in them are countless times in which thankfulness is mentioned and explained. You can check it out by clicking the picture above. As an Amazon Associate I earn commission from qualifying purchases, this helps to support this ministry, thank you.

You can also check out my review of this book by going here: https://7waysfromsunday.com/book-reviews/