Monday, November 12, 2012

Its time to be thankful!

Romans 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

The Loss of Thanksgiving
My wife and I have noticed a trend in the past two years with regards to the advertisements produced by stores on cable, smart-phone and internet platforms.  By June we began to see advertisements for Christmas sales, followed by an near equal amount of emphasis on Halloween.  As of this writing we are near mid-Novemeber and we are pressed to find one advertisement for Thanksgiving. 

Paul's formal statement on the judgment of mankind is found in Romans 1:18-31.  Despite revealing himself generally in creation, despite the knowledge of God's Eternal attributes being made accessible to all people, mankind as a whole has rejected General Revelation.  Among the characteristics of unbelief that marks the heart of sinful human beings is that of unthankfulness. 

The absence of any mention about the Thankgsgiving holiday is deafening, and I believe as Christians we need to be warned and we need to recapture one of the central affections of saving knowledge of God - namely thankfulness.  In today's blog I want us to explore briefly what thankfulness is, followed by what happens when a nation or humanity abandons thankfulness and then a final word on how we need to be thankful.

What does it mean to be thankful in the biblical sense?
Psalm 100:4-5 states - "Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. 5For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations."  This passage defines for us what it means to be thankful.  To be thankful simply means to express your appreciation for seeing God's goodness.  

Why is it that believers and unbelievers alike have this expression of thankfulness?  Because God has seen fit to make known the goodness of His glory, in varying degrees, in all things.  When you see a child born, or a sunset, or a beautiful flower, or a work of art, or the Olympics, or enjoy a good meal, or enjoy time with your spouse or children, what are you experiencing?  Even when they don't put a name to it, unbelievers are experiencing God's goodness indirectly throught relationships and created things.  

God's goodness put on display is His glory.  Moses prayed for God's glory in Exodus 33:18-19a and was given God's response: "18Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you...Therefore we see the link between thankfulness and God's goodness or glory.  So To be thankful simply means to express your appreciation for seeing God's goodness.

The destructive road of unthankfulness
Romans 1:21-31 gives us the downward spiral that mankind experiences when they persist in their rejection of God's General revelation in creation.  Unthankfulness means that you have chosen not to be appreciative and that you have concluded that God's goodness is neither desireable nor real.  When cultures, nations or individual human beings adopt a posture of ingrattitude, we see a downward, destructive road.

1. Discernment is lost.  Romans 1:21a  "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations." People that choose unthankfulness will experience an inability to discern or think clearly.  Think about it - whenever we find ourselves complaining, everything seems out of balance.  Our culture and government's decreasing ability to make sound financial, moral and politically expedient decisions is a sign of the fallout that is underway due to lack of thankfulness.

2. Direction is lost. Romans 1:21b-22 "and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools"  Thankfulness is the first step towards enjoying God.  Whenever you and I choose not to be thankful, we are in effect saying: "nothing to enjoy here".  With loss of discernment, we see the next step of deterioration - loss of direction.  Whenever a nation or a culture rejects God, the vision in which that nation or culture was conceived is lost.  Paul's warning here is firm: unless you repent, unless you acknowledge your lack of giving honor to Whom honor is due, your direction and discernment will quickly dwindle.

3. Decency is lost. Romans 1:24 "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them." As you go down through Romans 1, the downwarding spiral of judgment escalates.  God operates His moral and physical universe through cause/effect and influence/response.  Whenever mankind has rejected Him, whether through general revelation of nature or the special revelation of the Bible, a corresponding level of darkness is allowed to grip man ever tighter that is fitting to his warped desire.  With loss of discernment and direction comes the next logical step - loss of decencey.  Taboos are cast off, and anything goes.  

4. Destructive patterns increase. Romans 1:28 "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper". Paul reiterates the fact that mankind at large, when perisisting in its refusal to acknowledge God, will be handed for to a "depraved mind".  Simply put, moral and increased physical harm to one another will occur. 

5. Death of a culture. Romans 1:32 "and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." With the loss of discernment, direction, decency as well as the increase of destruction, when mankind perists in his rebellion against God, not giving thanks nor honor, the final result is the death of that culture.  Hearty approval to things like abortion, euthansia and state sponsored practice of both will mark a culture that is in the final throes of the downward spiral of unthankfulness mention here in Romans 1. 

Can anything be done?
Thankfully we don't have to end the blog in this fashion.  As Paul continues on into Romans 2, we read these words in Romans 2:4 - "do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?"  I would urge you to do what the following passages below prescribe for us to reverse this tide of unthankfulness.

1. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good! Psalm 100:4-5

2. Humble yourself before the Lord and pray, since that will heal us and our land from the consequences of our unthankfulness. 2 Chronicles 7:14 

3. Be thankful, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 
1 Thess 5:17-18


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