And now for my first ever Guest Post... It's from my husband. I've raved about him many times here, and he was blessed to be able to deliver the sermon this past Sunday while our beloved pastor and his wife were out of town. I loved his sermon and thought it would be a great followup to my Thanksgiving 2011 Series here at Dem Golden Apples. I will post it in three parts to help you have time to read it all over a few days - it's sermon-length after all.
"A 365 Thanksgiving" by Jeremy:
1Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.
3Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and not we ourselves;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
4Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.
5For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.
There are times in our lives that we do not feel like worshipping or saying “Thank you, God” for what He has brought to us…By a show of hands, has anyone here come on a Sunday morning to worship, but your heart was not “in the mood” to give God praise...? I’m glad that I’m not the only one…
Over the years of walking with the Lord, I’ve learned how essential thanksgiving is in my relationship with Him. I learned that worship and thanksgiving do not start at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. It is a 365 experience, a daily choice (and even moment-by-moment choice) to look upon God for who He is, what He has done for me, and what He has promised. As we come together today after Thanksgiving a few days ago, we seek to live before God a life of thanksgiving, a life of praise to the God who created us.
What I wonder, though, is probably what happened today among some of us--what hinders us from shouting for joy, worshipping with a glad heart, and singing joyfully? Let’s look at Psalm 100 again. Do you see any reasons to thank God? In verses 3 and 5, the writer remembers God’s providence/control, His protection, His goodness, love, and faithfulness to him. As a result of truly understanding the impact of these truths, out springs worship! Noticeable worship—joyful songs, shouting, praise! If we find our souls dragging spiritually, give God thanks. If we feel blasé, worship Him for His love, whether you see Him or not. Thank Him for His promise to always lead you and forgive you. Sometimes we worship God in faith, not feeling anything, but giving Him a sacrifice of praise—sacrifice because it doesn’t come easy; it’s hard to do at that moment. Worship Him anyway. And remember a few things…perhaps we should remember three beautiful gifts He has given to us.
In the way of Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol, there are three gifts from God that elicit from our hearts overflowing thanksgiving and worship—a gift in the past, in the future, and in the present. This is by no means an exhaustive list--just three that God impressed on me to share with you today out of millions of visible and invisible gifts. As we touch on each, feel free to use the notes page in your worship folder to jot down what the Lord has done for you and is speaking to you. When something is written, we’re less likely to forget it. And we must never forget one gift from God in the past.
A Gift in the Past—
(The Bad News and The Good News)
One gift from God that should never be forgotten begins with who we once were. We may look pretty good on the outside now, seemingly good at heart, giving to the church, somewhat involved, with a smile on our face, but this is not where we came from. At some point in our lives, each of us was hopelessly separated from a pure God because of our sins.
Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Wait, “no one who does good”? Certainly not! I have a good heart. Some of my co-workers and neighbors have good hearts—kind, friendly, generous, good people. Yet, this measuring stick of goodness falls against other people who are comparatively worse than us. More importantly, how does God view our goodness??
"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)
All our good deeds equate to a bloody rag that, according to Old Testament Jewish law, makes a person unclean, unable to approach God. No good act of ours ever measures up to God’s perfect standard of goodness. We are not good enough. He demands a perfect life to be acceptable to Him.
Therefore, as Romans 3:23 says, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We were dead in sins, says Colossians 2:13, unable to respond to God due to separating sins. In fact, according to 2 Corinthians 4:4, "the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Here lies our debilitative state: dead, blind, unrighteous, sinful, and separated from God. We were hopelessly lost.
So what is God’s gift in the past? The (Good News) is that God has not left us in that state. Because of God’s kindness, He made us alive in Jesus Christ. He forgave us of all our sins.
Just when we thought we could reach God with our own goodness, Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.
In Isaiah 43:25, God speaking: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
"I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness." (Isaiah 61:10)
Colossians 1:12-13 says, "...joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" - our past sins, today’s sins, and future sins - FORGIVEN by the cleansing blood of Jesus. The King stepped off His great throne, laid hold of our sins and cast them from us as far as the east is from the west.
What we were powerless to do, God did for our unsaved souls.
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ…" (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)
"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Let’s listen again to what God has given to us as a gift if we would receive it: He shone His light in us to give us light, we smell like Jesus before Father God, we are part of Jesus’ victory march over sin, we are qualified to be sons/daughters of God, rescued!, clothed in righteousness, sins removed, made alive, forgiven!
The blood that Jesus Christ shed for us grants us these gifts. We were darkness. If we have believed and trusted in Jesus for our salvation vs. hoping our own goodness will get us to Him, we are accepted by God entirely. No more striving to be accepted by Him with good works. The good work was done on the cross. When once we were foreigners and not able to cross into God’s perfect presence, Jesus became our Passport, our Visa, our Green Card, our Bridge to salvation. Praise God we are totally accepted by Him in our sinfulness! Jesus was the perfect sacrifice when we could not be. What a reason to give God thanks.
The hymn written by Horatio Spafford, It Is Well With My Soul, tells it well.
“My sin, O the bliss, of this glorious thought. My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!"
Thank You, God, for Your saving kindness!