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Thanksgiving Message

Since we have come to the close of a sermon series on Hebrews this week, and with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us and the need for a Thanksgiving text, how convenient of the author of the Hebrews to provide one for us in the final chapter of his epistle.

I read to you the Word of God recorded for our instruction in Hebrews 13:15-16:

“Through Him, then, let us continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share. For with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, after he had presented the truth of the Gospel, urges us, as a response to the salvation Christ has won for us, to offer our bodies back to God as a living sacrifice, devoted to the service of the Lord.

After teaching us that we are not and cannot be counted just and righteous in God’s sight by our keeping of the law since none of us can or do keep it perfectly as God requires, but that we can be counted just and righteous in God’s eyes through faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world for He perfectly kept God’s law in our stead and then bore the full punishment for our sins when He suffered and died on the cross, Paul urges us to now live and devote our lives to Christ, who died for our sins and rose again (cf. 2 Cor. 5:15).

We read in Romans 12:1-2: “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The epistle to the Hebrews, whether written by the apostle Paul or by another disciple of our Lord, makes clear to us that we have not been redeemed by the blood of goats and calves but by “the blood of Christ.”

We read in Hebrews 9:11-14: “But Christ, when He came as a High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies so that the flesh is purified, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

And so, we are justified, saved, and made acceptable in God’s eyes, not by our own sin-tainted works, but through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins and the sins of the world. But we are saved for a purpose. Our consciences were cleansed “from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14).

Or, as Paul writes to the Ephesians in Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we should walk in them.”

Therefore, through faith in Christ, entering the very presence of God the Father by means of the shed blood of Christ and His atonement for our sins, “let us continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).

Do you get it? Since we are saved by God’s grace alone and through faith alone in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice to atone for our sins, we are called upon to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, and we are to offer up to God “the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

We, of course, have so much for which to be thankful. We have families, homes, food, clothes, jobs, and lots of things to occupy our time and give us pleasure. And, at this time of year, many talk of being thankful for all they have. But, what is so often forgotten on this day is to whom we should be thankful! It is one thing to be thankful that we have been able to work and have our home and family and all these wonderful things. It is quite another to know and thank the one who has given them to us to enjoy!

That is why the psalmist, in Psalm 96:7-9, writes: “Give unto the LORD, O families of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth.”

You see, it’s not enough just to be thankful. We are to be thankful to the LORD (Jehovah or Yahweh, the Triune God) who created the heavens and the earth and has given us our lives and all things. He alone is worthy of our worship and praise!

And what can we give to the God who created and upholds all things? We have nothing that He needs. Indeed, all things are already His!

In Psalm 50:10-15, God tells us: “Every wild animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and the creatures that move in the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High, and call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.”

What does God desire of us? Our worship and praise, “the fruit of our lips.” He desires that we give to Him “the glory due His name” (Psalm 96:8). And our offerings to Him are not providing anything He needs but are an expression of trust in His name — trust that He can and will provide all our needs even when we first honor Him and present a portion of what he has given us back to Him and to the work of building His kingdom.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 3:9-10: “Honor the LORD with your substance, and with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your presses will burst out with new wine.” The question is: Do we trust in the LORD enough to do this?

And so, first of all, since God has created us and sustains us, since He gives us our life, our families and all things, since He also has redeemed us, sending His Son to pay the price and atone for our sins, and sending us his Word and the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith in Christ and give to us pardon, forgiveness and life eternal, we are called upon to “continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).

And, secondly, the Word of God urges us to “not forget to do good and to share. For with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16). It is true that we have nothing that God needs. However, there are many around us who are in need, and God would have us share the blessings he has showered upon us with those who are truly in need.

This, too, is an act and expression of faith, trusting that when we share with others, our God will still supply all our needs. Our Lord Jesus, who gave His life for us, told us: “Give, and it will be given to you: Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will men give unto you. For with the measure you use, it will be measured unto you” (Luke 6:38). And the Scriptures repeatedly urge us to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10).

God told His people in Deuteronomy 15:7-11: “If there be among you a poor man, one of your brothers within any of your gates in your land which the LORD your God has given you, you must not harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. But you shall open your hand wide to him and must surely lend him what is sufficient for his need, in that which he lacks. Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin in you. You must surely give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because in this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand to do. For the poor will never cease from being in the land. Therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and needy in your land.’”

In Isaiah 58:6-9, God says: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the poor who are outcasts into your house? When you see the naked, to cover him and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth as the morning, and your healing shall spring forth quickly, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your reward. Then you shall call, and the LORD shall answer; you shall cry, and He shall say, Here I am.”

Psalm 41:1 says, “Blessed are those who consider the poor; the LORD will deliver them in the day of trouble.”

We also read in Proverbs 19:17: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will repay what he has given.” And, in 22:9: “He who has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.”

In Luke 12:33-34, Jesus tells us: “Sell your possessions and give alms. Provide yourselves purses that do not grow old, an unfailing treasure in the heavens, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

And, certainly, there are many more verses we could consider. But the point is this: God desires that we trust Him enough to be willing to share the blessings He has showered upon us.

This, of course, takes wisdom because we are not to encourage slothfulness, and St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that “if any will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Therefore, we also need to be careful that we support those who are truly in need and not those who are too lazy to work. That may mean working through a trusted organization or taking the time to know those we help to be sure they are truly in need and not seeking to exploit the generosity of others. Of course, in the end, God will judge those who deceive us and abuse our generosity — meaning the burden of being good stewards lies not only on the giver but also on the recipients of our kindness.

We also seek to meet people’s greatest need, to share with them the precious teaching of God’s Word. Since God so graciously has given to us His Word and called us to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we share that Word with others, calling upon all to repent of their sinful ways and look to Jesus Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness (cf. Luke 24:46-47). We sacrifice that others, too, might hear the Gospel promises of forgiveness and life through faith in our Savior!

Therefore, through Christ, and as a result of His love and mercy upon us, we are exhorted to “continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share. For with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

We do so, not because God needs anything of us but because He has shown us mercy, forgiveness and abundant blessings for the sake of Christ Jesus, our Savior! We offer this sacrifice to God, not to merit God’s grace and favor but because God has shown us His abundant grace and favor for the sake of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice for us on the cross!

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” — Hebrews 13:20-21

A blessed Thanksgiving season to you!

[Scripture is quoted from the Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

O That Men Would Give Thanks!

from Psalm 107 Music courtesy of Robert Evans and scripturesongs.net.

O that men would give thanks
To the Lord for His goodness
And for His wonderful works
To the children of men
For He satisfies the longing soul
And fill the hungry soul with goodness
Let them understand
Let them understand and give…

Refrain:
(Oh, give) thanks, Oh give thanks
To the Lord for He is good
Oh, give thanks, oh give thanks
For His mercy endures forever

O that men would give thanks
To the Lord for His goodness
And for His wonderful works
To the children of men
For He has broken the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron in two
Let them understand
Let them understand and give…

O that men would give thanks
To the Lord for His goodness
And for His wonderful works
To the children of men
Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving
And declare His works with rejoicing
Let them understand
Let them understand and give…

O that men would give thanks
To the Lord for His goodness
And for His wonderful works
To the children of men
Let them exalt Him in the congregation of the people
And praise Him in the assembly of the mature
Let them understand
Let them understand and give…

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“He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:10-13

It is an amazing thing that God the Son, the Creator of the world, was in the world, and yet the world did not recognize Him! Jesus Christ, God Himself in human flesh, came into this world, and the people of this world did not know Him or acknowledge Him to be who He truly is.

Of course, nothing is different today. People still do not know or recognize Jesus for who He is. He made us and redeemed us, and yet we, by nature, do not acknowledge Him as our Creator or our Redeemer.

Jesus, the promised Messiah and Savior, came to His own people — to those who had the promises of God’s Word and looked for His coming — but they did not receive Him. And today as well, He comes through His Word to those who have known and heard the promises, but still, people are unwilling to receive Him.

But to those who do receive Him — to those who trust that in Him and for the sake of His blood shed on the cross for the sins of all mankind, God is gracious toward us and forgives sins — God has given the right and privilege to be His children.

As the Scripture says, “You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27).

However, our receiving of Jesus as the Messiah and Savior is not the result of our natural birth or bloodline. It is not because we were born to Christian parents or were raised in a church. It’s not even the result of our own will or decision. Rather, it is the gracious working of God the Holy Spirit in our lives. Through His Word, God reveals Himself to us and reveals to us Jesus as God the Son and our Savior, leading us to trust in Him for forgiveness and life.

It is as God’s Word says: “Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

We give You thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ, for graciously revealing to us that You are both our Creator and our Redeemer. We thank You for going to the cross and paying in full for our sins and the sins of the world so that we might have forgiveness of sins and everlasting life through faith in Your name. Thank You for moving us to trust in Your name and for giving us the right and privilege to be called children of God. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Marriage is to be honored among everyone, and the bed undefiled. But God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. Let your lives be without love of money, and be content with the things you have. For He has said: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:4-6

In Deuteronomy 5:21, Moses reminds Israel of God’s command against coveting (Ex. 20:17), restating the commandment in these words: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor shall you covet your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

And what God is teaching us in this commandment is to trust Him in all things and to be content in Him and in all His blessings. We are not to covet or desire what God has not given us but to trust in Him and rejoice in His blessings.

Therefore, we are to honor the covenant of marriage and keep it holy and undefiled, which means we should not covet our neighbor’s wife (or spouse), and we are not to commit adultery or engage in any kind of sexual immorality. We are not to be adulterers or sexually immoral (pornos) persons. Rather, we are to abide by God’s institution of marriage in Genesis 2:18-25 — a lifetime union of one man and one woman unto one flesh.

And, if you think about it, when we desire our neighbor’s spouse or seek to gratify our fleshly desires outside of God’s institution of marriage, what we are really doing is questioning and rejecting the truthfulness of God’s Word, which forbids both committing adultery and coveting (Deut. 5:18,21). We are yielding to the lies and deceptions of the devil and not being content with the blessings God offers and gives to us through the institution of marriage.

The writer to the Hebrews adds the warning, “God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers” (13:4).

As the commandment against coveting teaches us, we are not to desire money or the goods of this world which God has not given us, but we should live in faith, trusting that our God will meet all our needs and is working for our good.

And so, the writer to the Hebrews exhorts us: “Let your lives be without love of money, and be content with the things you have” (13:5).

This, of course, is completely contrary to the thinking of the world and our own selfish and sinful nature which is never satisfied and always seems to desire more — something better, the latest and the greatest.

Yet, the Bible cautions us against the love of this world when it says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father, but is of the world. The world and its desires are passing away, but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

The Bible urges us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us of God’s promises (13:5,6): “‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” Cf. Deut. 31:6,8; Josh. 1:5; Ps. 118:6-7.

Therefore, as we live by faith in the promise of God’s Word to grant us forgiveness, access to God the Father, and the eternal joys of heaven through faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for us on the cross, so we are also urged to live our lives here in this world in faith that God’s Word is true and right, that His commandments are for our good, that He will provide us with all our needs and will never leave or forsake us. We are urged to be content with what God provides us and to trust Him in all things, confident that He will lead us safely through this life to Himself in heaven!

Grant to us contentment in Your blessings, O Lord, and take from us our faithless longings for those things you have not given to us and which are not ours to have. Deliver us from the sinful lusts and desires of our own flesh and keep us from breaking Your good and holy commandments by desiring our neighbor’s spouse, loving money, or being discontent with the blessings You have given to us. Grant us faith in Christ Jesus for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal, and move us to walk by faith in Your Word. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came as a witness in order to testify concerning the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not this Light, but was sent in order to testify concerning the Light. The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:6-9

John the Baptist was sent by God to bear witness to Jesus Christ, God’s Son and the Light of the world. John was “the voice of him who cries out, ‘Prepare the way of the LORD in the wilderness, make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (Isaiah 40:3).

He did not seek to gain a following for himself but called upon all people to repent of their sins and trust in the Messiah and Savior who was about to appear. And John testified of Jesus that He is God the Son and the only Hope for fallen sinners. He said of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29; cf. 1:34,36).

As believers, we too bear witness to Jesus, the Light of the world, that all might repent of their sinful ways and place their trust in Him for forgiveness and life everlasting (Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47)! We do not proclaim ourselves to be the light but Jesus, for He only is the Light and Life of men.

We of ourselves cannot forgive sins or give life everlasting, but Jesus paid in full for the sins of all when He suffered and died on the cross and rose again, and Jesus offers to all forgiveness of sins and the everlasting joys of heaven through faith in His name.

Jesus is the true Light that shines upon the people of this world. By means of His Word, He reveals the sins and shortcomings of each of us, and He offers to us forgiveness and life through faith in His name.

As believers, we reflect that Light and point others to Jesus so that they, too, might know Him and trust in Him for life and salvation.

Dear Jesus, grant that we would not proclaim ourselves to be the light and seek to gain a following for ourselves. But, rather, grant that we would proclaim You to be the Light and Life of the world, the only Savior for fallen mankind! Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5

Who was already there in the very beginning when God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1)? Who was with God the Father in the beginning? and with God the Spirit as He moved upon the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2)?

Who created all things that were made? Who formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, giving man life, both physical and spiritual — making Adam a living creature who loved God, trusted in Him and served Him whole-heartedly (Gen. 2:7)?

It is the Word — God’s Son, Jesus Christ! In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, God the Son was already there! He was with God, and He was and always has been God!

Christ Jesus, before taking on human flesh, created man and all things! Without Him, nothing was created that has been created!

It is as the author of the book of Hebrews wrote: “God, who at various times and in diverse ways spoke long ago to the fathers through the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the world. He is the brightness of His glory, the express image of Himself, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1-3).

And St. Paul wrote to the Colossians of the Son: “He is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn of every creature. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they are thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15-17).

Man’s life originated in God the Son, and this life was man’s light. But now this Light of life shines in our sin-darkened world, and man does not understand or take hold of Him in faith. How tragic!

How blinded we are by our sin not to recognize our own God and Creator come into this world a true man to redeem us and give us back the life in Him we lost by our sin and disobedience!

God would have us repent of our sinful ways and look in faith to God the Son, who created us and gave us life, and who redeemed us by giving His life in our stead to make atonement for our sins.

Dear Lord Jesus, our God and Lord, open our eyes that we may see You and the life You have won for all by Your holy life and Your innocent sufferings and death for us on the cross; and breathe into us Your Spirit that we may be made alive, enlightened, and take hold of You by faith. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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