Today, on the So What Series, we ask, “What is Thanksgiving?” Millions of Americans have just returned from gathering around the tables of friends and family to celebrate this national holiday and literal “feast day.” But, instead of recalling the size of the Turkey. Stop, and consider the real reason for this holiday for the concept of Thanksgiving reaches far beyond 1623, and finds its genesis in the man's relationship with God. Thanksgiving literally means to praise God for His grace and, whether you are a Christian or not, we all have plenty to be thankful for. Without grounding our thankfulness in God, we will find ourselves void of a natural outpouring of thanks and praise for God’s bountiful blessings and many graces, but only filled with an empty pride and unsatisfying self-conceit. Thank you for joining us as we attempt to kindle the true meaning of the holiday and the warmth never far from a heart pressed closed to the hand of God.
In the Greek New Testament, thanksgiving literally translates to eucharistia, and means an outpouring of gratitude and thanks for God’s undeserved mercy and grace. While the Roman Catholic Church, has attempted to give the word new meaning within the practice of Eucharist. We can recognize thanksgiving not as what enter one’s mouth, but what proceeds forth (Matthew 15:11). So, thanksgiving is our response to God for what He has done for us. We can experience God's grace in two ways: the first involves His general grace, and the second His special grace.
The general grace of God is administered to everyone independent of any behavior. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus tells his disciples that God brings the sun and the rain on good and evil. Both are a underserved blessing and God gives both to good and bad. Likewise, Psalm 127:3, shows us children are a gift from God. Regardless of your relationship with God, all men and women experience the common blessing of family and children, hearth and home. God designs all these blessings to turn humanity to Him, for in them we realize we are powerless to bring such goodness into our dark, confused, and lonely lives. Only this undeserved gifts serve as a glimmer of the full hope and light resting in God. Yet, more often than not, we reject God's providence in these blessings, choosing to chalk such things up to good genetics, a little luck, and hard work (Romans 1:21). The Gospel writer John, says "the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend it." (John 1:5).
But, in God's special grace, the light is on full display in Jesus Christ. Despite our hostility to the things of God, He draws us into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (Col 1:21-22). In Colossians 1:15, we find Jesus Christ as the image of the invisible God. This special grace of God elicits praise in the Christian heart. The entire Christian relationship is built upon God's grace or getting something we do not deserve.
The best biblical verse to sum up this uniquely Christian thought is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) Thanksgiving comes from the realization that you do not deserve a relationship with God- its not your right! But, God, in Jesus Christ, extends us His grace and mercy to exist in a relationship with Him, if we turn from our sins and repent, trusting in Christ and Christ alone. We cannot work for this relationship, we cannot sacrifice for this honor, we cannot ascribe to the strictest tradition and duties to realize our faith. Faith comes by God alone.
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