The Grace of Thanksgiving

We are called by our God to be thankful in Christ Jesus! (1 Thess. 5:18; Col. 3:16-17). Thankfulness for God’s mercies runs as a glorious river of grace throughout redemptive history. But how are we to feed and fuel this thanksgiving? We want it to do be from the heart. We know that we can be fake at times, and a bit hypocritical. God knows our hearts, so how do we give thanks out of love because of a sincere faith, a clear conscience and a pure heart?

We are to remember. We are called as God’s covenant people to always be remember God, and His undeserved, magnificent goodness to us in Jesus. But we so easily forget, and thus are tempted to ingratitude! We are to remember. We are called as God’s covenant people to always be remember God and His undeserved, magnificent goodness to us in Jesus. The natural, unregenerate person is unable to give thanks. Thanksgiving is a gift of grace from the Holy Spirit, particularly manifest when we remember God and His graciousness toward sinners. But we so easily forget, and thus are tempted to ingratitude!

Church historian D. Clair Davis describes the Christian life as “a combination of amnesia and déjà vu.”  He says, “I know I’ve forgotten this before.”  As we follow Christ we keep needing to learn the same lesson over and over because we keep forgetting them.  And each time it happens, we suddenly remember that we have had to relearn these very same lessons before.

Our thanksgiving to God should come from clear and biblically informed memories that remember the love and grace of God. What does Scripture teach concerning this? We are to remember God (Exodus 3:14-15). God reveals His Name to His people so that we will remember Him throughout generations. These memories of God’s Person and loving and good character lead to service and faith that desire to focus on God. God reveals Himself not because He needed anything, but that He might bless us, and allow us to enjoy Him and glorify Him in our lives of service for Him.

God remembers His covenant mercies to His people, therefore we are called to remember that He always remembers us! “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good; for His steadfast (covenantal) love endures forever” (Psalm 118). God instituted feasts in the Old and New Covenants so that we might formally remember His grace and goodness to us Jesus Christ. God said of Passover in the Old Covenant: “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations…” (Exo. 12:12-14). God knew our tendency to forget, and He graciously desired to capture the memories of His people as they told the story of His faithfulness in redemption. This remembering would lead to great thanksgiving from the heart, manifesting itself in covenantal obedience to God in response to His love: “…Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done…” (1 Chron. 16:9-12).

In the New Covenant, the Lord Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:23ff). This remembrance that we are to have is God’s ultimate saving work in Christ for sinners, how He laid down His own life for us! Through this New Covenant feast (1 Cor. 5:8), we remember the past acts of God in Christ for us, and anticipate His glorious return, and the consummate feast we will eat with the Lord in the New Creation! At the Lord’s Table, we thank God for His indescribable gift to sinners in Christ! (2 Cor. (9:11ff).

Our Puritan forefathers spoke of having holy conversations, something that we don’t diligently seek to practice today as we should. This holy conversation is simply seeking to edify other brethren by reminding them of the great things God has done, and is doing in our lives; this is another aspect of watching what we say, and seeking to edify those like us who are often tempted to ingratitude. This is another way of stirring up other to love and good works–to thanksgiving! (Heb. 10:24-25). We see this telling of God’s goodness in Exodus 18 when Moses tells Jethro, his father in law, of God’s salvation faithfulness. And Jethro rejoices! Let us rejoice together in this way! (1 Thess. 3:9).

Ingratitude is a great sin (Rom. 1:21: “They did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him…”; cf. 1 Tim. 3:2; even secular psychologists today understand that ingratitude and complaning is because of narcissistic self-love). Thanksgiving is another gift of grace from God to His people. Thanksgiving is an act of faith that pleases God. We can be thankful because we have the Spirit of Joy and Rejoicing within us. This glorious Spirit has been secured for us because the Father set His affection and love upon us from eternity past, and in time the Eternal Son became man to redeem us by HIs precious blood. Let us give Him thanks! Glory to God! To the praise of His glorious grace! (Eph. 1).

Let us behold the Lord Jesus giving thanks to the Father for His wisdom in salvation, and His thanks for us as His own beloved, and let us imitate His holy attitude by His powerful Spirit (Luke 10:21; Heb. 2:13).

In Christ’s Love,
Pastors Biggs and Halley