Why We Should be the Most Thankful People on the Planet – Part 2

One of the greatest challenges of being a thankful people is how we do not slide into comparing ourselves to other people. Join me for Part II of our Thanksgiving Series.

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Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey His will, be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor. Whereas both houses of Congress have by their joint committees have requested me to recommend to the people of the United States, a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government peaceably, for their safety and happiness. Now therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty sixth of November next, to be devoted by the people of these states, to be of service to that great and glorious being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.

EASLEY:
Introduction: Well I hope that gets you in a thankful mood. As I listen to these vitant pieces it reminds me of how thankful we should be as a people of a country where freedom is still fairly free and as believers in Christ where we have great spiritual freedom.

You know one of the greatest challenges as we try to be a thankful people, is how do we not slide into comparison? How do we not slide into entitlement? Or thinking that we deserve something that someone else has? You know, we live in a world where we’re bombarded with images and imagery about success, bigger, better, more, we’re pulled, we’re compelled. As I often say I don’t need anything until I go to the shopping mall. I don’t need anything until I get on shopping online for something. Then all of a sudden I have all kinds of wants and needs.  How do we remain a thankful people in a culture, in a context, where we’re inundated by consumerism?

Last time on the broadcast we began in Luke Chapter 17, and looking at the ten lepers, who were cleansed. Jesus is moving on the way to Jerusalem and He’s going to pass by Samaria and Galilee. As He enters a village, He encounters ten lepers who stand at a distance from Him begging for mercy. So I’m trying to help you and me as we think about being a thankful people to recalibrate: We’re all spiritual lepers. We’re all people who are in sin, in a sin condition and we cannot approach a Holy God. Well these ten lepers call out to Him, “Jesus, Master,have mercy on us.” and we looked last time at what it meant for them to go and show themselves to the priest, and as they did, they were cleansed. When you and I come to Christ and we trust in Christ, and Christ alone, we’re cleansed. We’re cleansed of our sin, so as we rezoom our text, remember we’re helpless throw away people, marginalized; we’re lepers spiritually. We have the compassion of this incredible Jesus and as a result we should be the most thankful people on the planet.

Well let’s pick up the broadcast as we remind ourselves why, why should we be a thankful people, no matter what our experience or circumstance tries to tell us. You and I have to make a choice. Are we going to be ungrateful? Compare ourselves to others? Always be the underachiever in the sense of I don’t have this or have that? Or will we understand our inheritance in Christ and what He has done for us by forgiving us, calling us His sons and daughters, adopting us into His eternal kingdom.

Let’s pick up Christ’s story line in Luke Chapter 17, picking up at vs. 15.

Verse 15, Now one of them, when he saw that He had been healed, turn back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face, at His feet, giving thanks to Him and he was a Samaritan. Hopeless throw away people. Secondly, the compassion of our Jesus.

Thirdly, the thankfulness of a throw away leper. The ten are cleansed but only one returns. It adds tension to the scene here, because this is where Luke identifies Him. He said He’s going to Samaria and Galilee in vs 14, but now He flat out says, one and this one and this one was a Samaritan. Now it’s hard for you and me to get our arms around this. The closest way I think we can understand it is the way in Africa certain combating people groups will actually euthanize eugenics, the stuff of ethnic cleansing. These people are worthless; destroy them. This is the way Hitler wanted the world to look at the Jew. They’re subhuman, destroy them! And that is the way a Samaritan was viewed. So you have a leper who is already unclean outside the community, and “Oh by the way he’s a Samaritan.” This is the stuff of ethnic cleansing, a diseased person who should be killed has no purpose in life. If you understand the context a little bit, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” The throw away refuse of humanity that no one would regard or pay attention to and the lowest of the low is a Samaritan. We found out Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman that caused quite a stir. Even she says, “What business do you have being a Jew talking to me, a Samaritan?” You don’t talk to me, I’m less than human by the way most Jews look at me. He comes back. Notice the verbs: he turned back; he’s headed in a direction; he sees he’s healed; couldn’t have been more than a few steps, he turns back, loud voice glorifying God; falls on his face at the feet of Jesus, and thanks Him.

A few weeks ago we were looking at several passages where worship involves falling on your face. So we see a vivid illustration of thankfulness here because he’s going to be restored. No longer diseased; he’ll be no longer isolated and he gives glory to God, he turns and comes back to tell the man, “Thank you for what you’ve done.” Lessons here are easy. Do you take time to thank God for the activity in your life? Do you recount what God’s done for you? Obviously, your salvation is the first big thank you. Our lives, I believe, as a result of our salvation, should be a lifelong thank you back to Christ. That’s what a disciple does. He or she lives as a thank you all of your life back for what He’s done for you to forgive you of your sins. The ole, did he count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God has done. Little bit shlocky of a hymn but really good theology, because we forget. And he falls on his face. Vs 17, then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine, where are they? Was no one found to return to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” Who is Christ speaking to in this section? The leper? The Samaritan leper? No, look at the grammar. Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine, where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner? He’s talking to the Jews around Him. If you read the whole chapter, you’ll see the whole context. It’s a teaching opportunity. Jesus is the always deliberate, always intentional, never, “Oh by the way,” it’s always on purpose. Everything He does or says is deliberate. So He’s saying to those around, “Where are the nine?”  The only one that came back, this foreigner? Now Jesus is not using a word that is rude or discriminatory, or politically incorrect. He’s calling the person what the community would call him: a foreigner. We would say, “an undocumented worker,” in our correct language today. Not a illegal alien. You can’t use those words anymore; you get in trouble. So it’s undocumented worker. It’s the same feel. This foreigner? I’d love for someone who writes the dramas, and fiction and so forth, to come up with a story about The Nine. It’d be cool to have a play of what the nine did, how they got back into their no longer isolated, no longer diseased, life and how they quickly they forgot what had been done for them, and certainly never thanked the one that did it for them.

The phrase we can’t develop in detail, but the phrases are rich with theology. Cleansed has to do with the play on the unclean clean, but it has to do with sin. No ones found, except this foreigner, who gives glory to God. Back vs 15, He glorified God. We’ll talk more about that in a moment. Jesus remarks to the leper and to you and me. He commends the gratitude, vs 19. He said to him, “Stand up; Go.Your faith has made you well.” The word well here is sozo; it’s the most common word for salvation in the New Testament. (English translation of the Greek word.) It means salvation or deliverance. More times than not, it means spiritual salvation. Once in a while It can be like saved from the sea. If you’re out on the boat and everyone’s going to drown, and you’re sozo: you can be saved. If you know a little bit of theology, we use the big word soteriology. It’s the study of the Doctrine of Salvation. Sozo is kind of works it’s way into English and we sort of gloss it and the idea is saved or be delivered. The word He uses here; the one your faith has made you saved. He’s not saying your faith healed you and cured you of your leprosy. What did he do? He started walking. Is that really faith? No, the faith is in the key phrase “Turn back, glorified God, and thanked Christ and worshiped Him.” We’d say he became a believer in Jesus Christ. He turned back, he glorified God, and he worshiped Jesus Christ. He fell at His feet. You don’t worship people; you worship God and so when Jesus echoes this in vs 18, “Was this one who gave glory to God?” You see they’re all healed of their illness, but only one is healed of his condition. They’re all healed of their disease, but only one is forgiven of his sins. They’re all saved from leprosy, but only one is saved from eternal separation and hell apart from Christ.

A few lessons: Number one. Comparison is the kiss of death of gratitude. Comparison is the kiss of death of gratitude. I drive a 2005 Honda Pilot that I love. It has 58 almost 59,000 miles on it and it’s sort of like a baseball glove. It just fits. I keep it very well. I change the oil more frequently than not. I have it detailed from time to time. I do everything on schedule, sometimes early. I’m a fanatic about keeping it up. The hard part about the Honda is, you will hate the car before it ever gives you any trouble. It’ll have two hundred and fifty miles on it and it’ll still be going and you’ll say, “I want a new car.” But you don’t need one; it just keeps on going, unless something goes unusual with those kind of cars. I love my Honda Pilot until once in a while, I get into a different newer, nicer SUV. Once I do, I go, “ Hmm, I mean after all it’s got almost 60,000 miles on it. It’s time for me to get a newer car. Cindy and I, we don’t have any debt. We spend less than we earn. We give first and foremost to the Lord. We save. We save for our kids college. We live under our income. We’re very good with our money. God’s been very kind to us. It’s not rocket finance. If you spend less than you earn; you give to the Lord; you stay out of debt; you do it for a long period of time; you’ll be fine. It’s just that simple. It really is. So we’ve not done the best with all our money, but we’ve tried to follow those simple principles and God’s been kind all I’m saying is if I want to go buy a car, Cindy says, “Go buy a car. We’ve got the money, go buy a car.” So I look and look and look and she sends me some links. I said, “Yeah you know that’s just a lot of money. Yeah, it’s better than mine. It does this and does that, you know it gets better gas mileage.” Until I look at those cars, I’m happy with my baseball glove. I don’t need any clothes until I go to the mall. If I go to the mall, I need some tailored shirts because some of you have told me, “You’re not supposed to wear these poncho shirts, supposed to wear tailored shirts.” I’ve got a closet full of poncho shirts. They work just fine. No, you have to have tailored shirts in Nashville. (sticking tongue out) (laughter) So I’ll wear a sport coat and cover it. There! I don’t’ need any clothes. I have a whole lot of blue jeans now. Not the right ones yet apparently, but I have a whole lot of them. I don’t need a thing until I compare myself to somebody else. Bigger, better, newer, more! Comparison is the kiss of death of gratitude. When you start comparing yourself to what someone else has, what the mall has, what the Apple Store has, whatever it is that you want has, when you start comparing yourself to them, you become ungrateful. If you have the resources and all that, I’m not saying don’t do that stuff; don’t hear me say that. I’m just saying it works against a grateful heart, when we compare ourselves to other people, other things, other possessions, other stuff that they have. I could own three hundred watches and buy a new car every year because I love watches and cars. Its this disease I have. I don’t know what it is. When I compare those things to other things, “Well you know I don’t have one that looks like that, I think I’ll get another watch.” I have the money to do it, but do I need to do it? You have the freedom. But when you compare yourself to what other people have who may have a little more than you, you become ungrateful for what you have.

Secondly, thankfulness defends against bitterness and self preoccupation. Thankfulness defends against bitterness and a self preoccupation. It is an absolute truth. You show me a bitter person; I’ll show you an ungrateful person. You show me a joyful person; I will show you a thankful person. It is as simple as visiting assisted living, retirement center and talking to some people who are older and have some struggles. They fall in one of two categories; they’re bitter or they’re sweet. Entropy is tough to beat men and women. I don’t want to be a bitter old man. Scares me to death to be a bitter old man. If Alzheimer’s or Dementia hits us, we may not have control over it. But just getting old and ornery is not an excuse for being ungrateful and not having joy. Thankfulness can’t preoccupy preoccupation of self. It can’t occupy the same space.  A joyful person who understands he or she has been blessed is a thankful person. A critical person, is a bitter person, a self preoccupied person is not a thankful person, is not a joyful person. It is a corollary; impossible for the two in the same room. Some of us live in a painful waiting room. I’m sitting in waiting rooms a lot in different seasons of my life, so sorry, my world view becomes a waiting room. I look at these people’s eyes and faces and I can tell you the pain they live with, and I can tell you how I’ve tried to cope, and everybody’s tried to cope and we all share notes. Some of you know Joni Eareckson Tada. She and I became friends when I was at Moody. I did not know when I met her in 2005, when I first met her face to face, that she also had chronic pain, and I have a very treasured letter she wrote me when I first went to the institute about living with chronic pain that I still treasure. She told me about her chronic pain then and you probably heard, she has advanced breast cancer. They did a radical double mastectomy on her recently and I go, “Lord, doesn’t the women have enough for goodness sake? She‘s a quadriplegic, she lives in chronic pain.” How can you live in chronic pain when you’re a quadriplegic? And she’s got breast cancer. A gentleman last night came up to me after the service and said, “My mom has had two runs of breast cancer. They finally did the radical mastectomy and she’s been clean for five years and last week they found breast cancer again.” How do you find breast cancer when there’s no breasts and no lymph nodes? How do you get breast cancer again? Some of you have Lupus, some have MS, some have some forms of cancer, some live with pain, some of you have a parent, or a loved one or a child that has chronic problems. So I look at my life at this stage as a waiting room. I’m waiting for the doctor to work a miracle or to give me a new pill and I’m waiting for a new body. You may not be there right now. You may be healthy as a horse. God bless you for it. Enjoy it while you can. You may die that way, but this life is going to be a painful waiting room at times and I have to make the determination, I don’t want to be a bitter person. Only with Christ help, can I fight it off. Am I always happy and joyful? No! Just ask any of my family, any of my children, they will tell you, sometimes I’m a bear. But God help me not to be charistically an ungrateful, unthankful person.

Third, thankfulness requires humility. Thankfulness requires humility. When someone does something for you, that’s when you say, “Thank you.” Self absorbed people are not thankful people as I’ve already tried to argue. Arrogant people, people who live with an entitlement mindset. You know the personal right thing, we’ve made these little gods out of personal rights. Now entitlement has become so much a part of our mindset, we think we deserve stuff. I’m the worst father in the world in many categories and one of them has been not giving my kids everything they want. We never had a Playstation, a Nintendo, an X-box and never will on my dollar. I’m the only parent in the room that feels that way and if you young people, be glad I’m not your daddy. I’m a bear. When we moved from Chicago to here, Cindy bought a Wii for our kids and we had words about that. That means we argued. We had words about that. She said, “Well I want to do something for them. We’re moving again.” I said, “What do you mean? They got a place to sleep, they got clothes, they got food. What do you mean? “Do something for them?” You got to get them a Wii.” My greatest delight is when they don’t use it. I just love it that they don’t use it. Entitlement is an enemy of thankfulness. When I see young children, and I’m not pointing any fingers because even though some are doing it right now, young children with iphones and itouches, not that any of my children have, but if they were to ask me, “Can I get an iphone?” I’d say, “Sure. Get a job and make money and buy your own iphone.” I’m not going to buy them an iphone. I’m the worst father in the world because as I watch from the first child to our youngest children, how the culture has changed; everybody’s throwing these things. Nothings wrong with the stuff. Don’t hear me criticize the stuff. It’s what it breeds that I have to have it, to have an identity. If I don’t have it, I’m not as cool as my friends and this entitlement attitude is an ungrateful attitude with what they do have. So when they go to Peru, or Guatemala or wherever, they get a real recalibration that you can have fun with a soccer ball in the dirt, playing soccer with no technology and no toys and just a big old smile on your face because you get to play with your friends. Entitlement works against thankfulness. Thankfulness requires humility. You know what you deserve? You know what I deserve? You know what our entitlement is? Hell. You and I are entitled to hell. That’s what we’re entitled to. Each of us deserves hell and God and His kindness saved you. The leper comes back, a picture of you and me, and throws himself at the feet of Jesus, glorifying God and says thank you.Eucharisteo is the word. Thank you. (English translation of Greek word)Where are the nine? Weren’t they healed also? Are you the one or are you the nine?

If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ and He saved you and you trusted Christ; If Jesus never did one more thing for you as long as you lived, would you still be thankful? If He never answered your prayer: He never helped you with a problem; He never mended your broken heart; He never gave you the dream job you wanted to; He never found you the husband or wife you wanted; He never having to reconcile with your ex-husband, ex wife, your kids who have broken your heart? If He never did one thing for you, would you be thankful? Now I don’t think that’s our God. I l think our God is a merciful, wonderful, loving, compassionate, long-suffering, patient, kind, lavishing, things on us that we don’t deserve. But I almost have to overcompensate and say, “Michael, if He never did one more thing for you, would you praise Him nonetheless?” And that’s when you begin to understand your salvation.

PRAYER: Father, thanks for the privilege of worshipping you. Thank you for salvation that’s rich and free. Thank you for a gorgeous day outside. Thank you for the blessings we do have, for life, for health, for food, for family, for friendships, for job, for money in the bank, for a place to call home, for the gorgeous weather today, for this time of year, for our country, for the freedoms we enjoy. Father, recalibrate us from the selfish, arrogant, all about me, bitter, entitlement mindset that we can easily slip into, to a life of humility, of thankfulness, of extraordinary blessings, in the Person and work of Christ, in His name we ask and pray. Amen.

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