Thanksgiving: A Christian Perspective
1Th 5:18 “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This past Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving and I want to ask you, despite the many controversies that have arisen in our ‘modern world’ which is full of nonsense and ‘political correctness, did you ‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever! Were you able to take your eyes off of the things of this world and bow your head in gratitude and worship to the One Who gave you life and everything that you hold dear? You see the Christian perspective of Thanksgiving is exactly this: we are thankful to Almighty God for His gracious provision and preservation which we experience as each day He blesses us with our daily bread and all things that pertain to life and godliness.
Hopefully you know the history behind this holiday which we call Thanksgiving; a holiday that commemorates the feast celebrated by the Pilgrims and the Indians at Plymouth. The historical revisionists have taken this beautiful celebration and turned it into something ugly. Let me give you an example. A women by the name of Patty Loew: a keynote speaker at the third annual ‘Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration’ held at Lakeview Lutheran Church said “the problem with the traditional Thanksgiving story is that it plays to the American version of history where peace loving English settlers tame the wilderness and survive attacks from the bloodthirsty Indians. ‘It’s the quintessential American holiday,’ she said. ‘It involves escaping danger, surviving in a harsh environment, carving out a new life.’ Unfortunately, Loew says, the whole Thanksgiving story is nothing but myth.
In reality, the Indian tribes living along the Eastern seaboard had been decimated by disease in the years preceding the storied landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620.” The more religious of the settlers — only 32 of the 102 who landed at Plymouth were actually Pilgrims — thought the existing villages and cleared fields were a sign that God was providing for them. Other settlers took to digging up the graves of Indians, picking through the housewares, blankets or weapons buried with the dead. This woman concluded her presentation by saying “So the first Thanksgiving in America was actually held by grave robbers,”
This is what we are up against. Christianity is being painted as something evil and history is being rewritten in order to ‘fix our society.’ What do you think? Is this a good thing? Is it a good thing to rewrite history in order to sell your particular world view or should we be holding to the truth. Because the truth is that the first Thanksgiving Day feast was indeed a day of worship and gratitude for God’s providential care of the pilgrims. They were grateful that He had brought them through the pathless ocean to land in America. They were grateful that He had preserved them through the harsh New England winter. They were grateful that He had sent Samoset and Squanto to teach them how to plant and grow food. In everything they gave thanks to God for His grace!
Now 169 years later, in 1789, General George Washington declared November 26, as a national day of “thanksgiving and prayer.” A few months after his inauguration, Washington issued “Presidential Proclamation Number One”, his Thanksgiving as the first President. He voiced his personal conviction that “it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.”
Then on November 26, 1863 and again on November 23, 1864 Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day to be a national holiday. Listen to the wording of his proclamation;
By the President of the United States of America.
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln”
It is plainly evident that the overriding motivation behind the proclamations made by Presidents’ Washington and Lincoln’s is clearly the acknowledgment of the providential hand of Almighty God who had bestowed all of the blessings that this nation has ever experienced. But it is interesting to me how the memory of good things always seems to fall by the wayside. The writer of Hebrews warns us that “We must therefore pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.” Heb 2:1 Today we see the result of the drift away from the wonderful grace of our Merciful Father in Heaven. The emphasis on the grace and mercy of Almighty God as the reason for the celebration of Thanksgiving has nearly vanished away in the wake of liberalism and the deafening silence on the part of Christians. In their frantic effort to eradicate any mention of God in America, the enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ have feverishly worked to replace Thanksgiving with something more “inoffensive.” Now we celebrate “Turkey Day.”
And what is worse is that many in the visible Church have been carried along with this error. How many of you refer to Thanksgiving Day as “Turkey Day?”
And how many of you have spent the day worshiping at the altar of the Television watching Football rather than redeeming the time because the days are evil and instead have bowed your head in humble gratitude to our glorious and gracious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us? I would dare say that very few did this!
Now I’m not saying that there is no one left who lifts his heart in praise to God for His bountiful blessings. But what I am saying is that there are really only a handful of real Christians, those who are the faithful remnant in the visible church today who would even dare to do so. When I say visible church I mean you who are visibly here, who come to the church building in the sight of all. And I want to emphasize that there is a difference between the visible ‘church members’ and those who are true believers in Jesus Christ. Ponder this truth; you may come here Sunday after Sunday and go through the motions of singing, and worship attendance and many people may see you come here. But God does not look at the outward appearance. He looks at the heart! In 2Ti 2:19 Paul says to us: “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” God’s people give evidence that they are His by bearing the fruit of a holy life while the pretenders merely give Him lip service.
Indeed, I believe that the vast majority of church members in our land today could be categorized as what William Wilberforce referred to as Cultural Christians or what I like to refer to as “Church People.” What are ‘Church People? Well simply stated; these are people who attend Church services, pay tithes and even hold offices but who are only “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and Christians are commanded to “Avoid such men as these.” 2Ti 3:5
Interestingly you will find many politicians in this group. Many of them vainly flaunt their sinful behavior before the world and yet they are ‘members of churches.’ Worse than that, you will also find Pastors, men who claim to have been called of God to proclaim His Holy Word in this group. I find this the saddest thing of all. The Pastor is supposed to be Christ’s under-shepherd, the man who feeds and cares for the flock, who is to protect the flock from wolves. He, like all True Christians, is to reflect the glory of God and the characteristics of Jesus Christ before the flock that is set before him. But when the Pastor turns out to be a wolf, what do you do? And there are many such ‘Pastor’s’ whose hearts reflect the world: who serve their master the devil: who are in the ministry for status or worldly gain (filthy lucre’s sake) “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” Php 3:19
The Bible declares that those who practice sin are of the devil and they prove their allegiance to him by reflecting his character which is excess in every form. There may be some here today who even now are raging within their hearts and shouting: ‘legalistic, pharisaical; holier than thou!’ Those who would defend their sinful behavior would say, “I’m a carnal Christian. I’m just out of fellowship with God but He understands. Be patient with me, God isn’t finished with me yet!” Or they might say, “The God of the New Testament is different than the God of the Old Testament. He is kinder and gentler, and wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. He is Love. But I say that the wages of sin is death! Yes God is Love but He is also Holy, Holy, Holy: and His holiness demands that He deal justly with sinners. All your excuses are merely meant to cover up the truth of your wicked unrepentant heart if this is you. And God said, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” Pr 28:13
Now I’m not saying that real Christians are problem free. God’s children still have a fallen sinful nature which seeks every day to drag us back into the vomit of our old sinful practices. This is the very reason why we are called to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith: because if we take our eyes off of Him and look to the wind and the waves we are going to sink. The hymn writer said; “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. And if left to ourselves this is exactly what we would do.
Therefore we must have a singleness of eye, a singleness of purpose: and that purpose is to serve the living God in everything we do. 1Co 10:31 tells us that: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” And in Col 3:17 we are told “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. And finally Col 3:23 “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” If we would but occupy our time with this in mind, I dare say our lives would be drastically different.
The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?” And the answer is clear, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever!” This is what we are to be about. And we cannot do this apart from Jesus. Indeed He clearly said; Apart from Me you can do nothing!” The proper heart attitude; indeed the Christian perspective toward celebrating Thanksgiving then is one of gratitude for God’s merciful preservation and provision and a wholehearted devotion to and dependence upon our Great and Almighty Heavenly Father who loved us and gave His only Son to redeem us from the curse of the law.
John MacArthur refers to this mindset as “An Attitude of Gratitude” and the Apostle Paul, in Col 3:12-15, declares in no uncertain terms exactly what we must be about. He says; “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, that is, as those who have been made the recipients of so great a salvation, who have been made to be partakers of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, those whom God Himself has called and chosen, to those who are most blessed, by virtue of their position in Christ, we are called to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Now I would like for you to turn with me to Psalms 107:1-9 and hear the words of a man who has come to a proper understanding of the work of God in his life. This man had taken his eyes off of himself because he understands that in his flesh there dwelleth no good thing. But he has found grace at the Mercy Seat of God and has fixed his eyes upon Jesus, looked full in His wonderful face and the things of earth had grown strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
As you listen to these gracious, Spirit inspired words I would ask you to search your own heart and ask yourself whether or not you are truly thankful for what God has done for you. Ask yourself whether or not you are a “Church Person” or a real blood bought, born again believer in Jesus; one who loves the Lord with all of your heart, soul mind and strength.
Look with me at the opening line of verse 1 where we read, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,” and I ask you, is there anyone in this room who can deny this truth? If the Lord has shone the light of His grace in your heart, if He has revealed Himself to you in saving grace and in His daily provision and preservation for your life then you cannot but shout these words, Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good… Our loving, merciful Heavenly Father does all things well and is, by the nature of His being, worthy to be praised. Indeed all praise and glory and honor belong to Him who sits enthroned above the cherubim: Who is the Lord of all creation and in our case, re-creation.
He has transformed us from being rebels, bitter enemies and worthy of hell, into citizens of Heaven. He has replaced our heart of stone with one of flesh. He has made us who were God haters into God lovers. He has taken us who were once not a people and made us to be sons and daughters, heirs of the kingdom of God. He has passed over our sins, covering them in the blood of Jesus Christ. 2Co 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Does this not cause you to want to rise up and give thanks to the Lord for He is GOOD!”
And His goodness does not last only for this lifetime. The Psalmist calls us to give thanks to the Lord…For His loving-kindness is everlasting. His loving-kindness extends forever. He has called us with an everlasting calling and has prepared an eternal home for us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The writer of Hebrews tells us in. Heb 4:9 “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” This rest for the people of God is a rest that will last for all eternity. What wondrous love is this, the hymn writer wrote, that caused the Lord of bliss, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
We were yet sinners but God, we raged against His holy Law, but God, we cursed those who proclaimed the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus, but God… God sent His One and Only Son into the world to live a perfect life on our behalf, to die a perfect, once for all sacrificial death for our sins and raised Him for our justification! Indeed, Christ’s one time sacrifice finished the work of my salvation for all eternity. His loving-kindness to His children is everlasting. When Christ comes to bring us home, it will be forever and as this is shouting ground for the called for the Lord 2 “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary…”
We were redeemed from being slaves to sin, to being made sons of God, from being under the power and authority of the prince of the power of the air, to being set free to serve the Living God, from wallowing in the dunghill of sin to being cleansed from all the filth of the world! Oh what wondrous love is this! We were redeemed from the hand of the adversary 3 and gathered from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Men from every tribe, tongue and nation, we were called from the tombs and made alive as Christ issued the command, COME FORTH!
4 They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; “Recall the days when these words were true of you, when you wandered about in dry places with misery and strife as your constant companions. There is an old Gospel song that goes like this; I remember the days, I remember them well, when my toes were dangling on the edge of hell.’ And but for the grace of God we would have plunged into the abyss of eternal fire and agony, where our worm dieth not neither is the fire quenched.
This is the picture that is being painted by the Psalmist. And as long as we were looking to men, as long as we were trusting in man, and making flesh our strength, as long as our hearts were not softened in repentance before the living God we were under the curses and, “they did not find a way to an inhabited city. Why? It is because we were blind. We had no map, no direction: no guide to lead us to the heavenly city. And here is the reason: The scriptures tell us that apart from God this is impossible. There is no worldly wiseman who can help us off with our burden of sin. No blind guide can point us in the way in which we should go. And so we read in verse 5 They were hungry and thirsty; like the woman at the well we were seeking for things that couldn’t satisfy and…their soul fainted within them. We despaired of life itself.
But 6 “Then like the prodigal son who came to his senses, we came to ourselves when the Lord in mercy visited us, called us out of the grave of self and opened our eyes to see the wretched state of our souls. He showed us the futility of our plans and schemes and testified to us of our sin, His righteousness and the coming judgment. When we were taught of God to see the righteousness of God and the judgment to come, when we were made to behold Christ, a true and perfect redeemer then…they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
We had been taught the bad news of the state of our souls before a Holy God. And then we were made to see the good news, that God had provided for Himself a Lamb, a Redeemer whose work on the Cross was a finished work for His sheep. And He told us that all who would call upon His name for salvation and the deliverance from sins would be saved. We cried out to the Lord in our trouble and “He delivered them out of their distresses. My sin oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If God is for us, who can be against us?
And He did not leave it at that. 7 He led them also by a straight way, to go to an inhabited city. I am reminded of Pilgrims Progress where Evangelist directed Pilgrim to the wicket gate where he would be placed on the Kings highway, and where his burden of sin would be removed. He knew who he was and where he had come from. And he, having sanctified Christ as Lord in his heart was ready to tell everyone the reason for the hope he had within Him. He would tell everyone who asked, “I am come from the City of Destruction and am going for praise to Mount Zion, the Celestial City.”
We too have been delivered from the grip of the devil. We were called out of the city of destruction and even now we are being led to the Celestial City, our home in heaven, the Heavenly Jerusalem. All true believers in Christ are looking forward with hope, with confident assurance to the day when we will take our place of eternal rest in the presence of Him Whom our souls love! Unlike mere pretenders, the true Christian has actually found rest for his soul in the person of Jesus Christ and on that day when we are bidden to enter into the joy of our Lord we will be filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory as we worship our King in the beauty of His Holiness.
Because this is true, because Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law and given us a living hope the Psalmist calls the redeemed to worship saying 8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for His loving-kindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! 9 for He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good. Well, what are you waiting for? If you have hungered and thirsted for righteousness and have been born again into a living hope in Jesus Christ, then you have been filled!
Now this morning we have just been given a glimpse into the magnificent blessings that await us. Jesus Christ is the Vine and His father is the Vinedresser. We have been grafted into the True Vine, Jesus Christ by God Himself. Believer, are you thankful for this amazing grace in which you find yourselves this morning? “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Ps 136:1
I ask you in light of the truth of scripture that we heard this morning; do you understand that as we are utterly dependant upon God for the salvation in which we find ourselves so too we are utterly dependant upon Christ for everything that pertains to life and godliness! We “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Ps 100:3…“for in Him we live and move and exist… Ac 17:28 The bible tells us that He is the Vine and we are the branches. He is the root and we are dependant upon Him for all that pertains to life and godliness. Indeed apart from we were dead in trespasses and sins with hell in our future and hopelessness as our constant companion. But God, being rich in mercy with which He loved us, when we were dead in trespasses and sin made us alive, saved our souls and grafted us into the True Vine: Christ. I call upon you who name the name of Christ to give thanks to the Lord for He is good!
Today as we reflect on the overwhelming grace and mercy of God I ask you to just worship Him! Recall to mind the blessings of the Lord who redeemed you from sin and the penalty due you for your trespasses, Who has sustained you in times of trouble, who has lavished His grace upon you in all wisdom and insight and Who promised never to leave you nor forsake you, Who indeed has prepared a place for you in heaven that where He is, there you might be also. This is what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving from a Christian perspective. And for the Christian, Thanksgiving Day is everyday! This is the Christian perspective of Thanksgiving!