One Day of Thanksgiving?
Here it is…the day after the holiday officially known as Thanksgiving. Yesterday on social networks, everyone was busy wishing everyone else a happy thanksgiving. That’s certainly a worthwhile meme and wish. But for Christians, there is absolutely no reason to set one day aside and treat it as if it is more special than any other day regarding our desire to be filled with thanks.
Of course, the holiday – Thanksgiving – dates back to the very early days of the Pilgrims, who came to America in part to escape religious persecution. They finally landed, some of them survived the very harsh winters of what became known as the Northeastern coast of America, and these same individuals went on to settle into their new lives. Hardships continued to come, at least some of which were their own making, but life continued.
We can focus on one particular holiday and reserve much or most of our thanksgiving for that one day or we can be thankful for each and every day. Paul tells us not only to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but in everything we should offer thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18). There is a very good reason for that admonition, which some rightly call a command of the apostle.
There is much to be thankful for every day of our lives as Christians. If you can think of nothing else, you can at least be thankful that you possess Jesus, which means that with Him, you possess eternal life. He promises to never leave or forsake us once we become His and once He – through the indwelling Holy Spirit – takes up residence within us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). Is there anything more powerful, more true that each and every Christian can be thankful for in this life? This promise begins in this life at the very moment we receive Jesus and extends into all eternity.
Holidays are certainly fine. In fact, we are coming up to a holiday where the birth of Christ is celebrated. The world does it wrong. Most Christians probably get too caught up in the worldliness of the event as well. However, I also firmly believe that if anyone should be authentically celebrating the birth of Jesus, it should be Christians. It is a testimony to the world when done correctly. I’ll leave that to you to determine how or even if you should celebrate it.
Holidays have their purpose. Chief among them is to point out specific reasons for doing something. With Thanksgiving, we look back to a time when Pilgrims migrated to the land we now call the United States of America. Here, in those early days, they blessed the Lord for their good fortune in guiding them to a new land.
But as Christians, we have so many more things for which we should be very grateful and thankful. We have salvation. We have Jesus in our hearts. Because of this, we can never not have Him in our hearts. We cannot ever lose salvation once bestowed. While I realize there are those who believe that salvation can be lost, I could not disagree with them more. If salvation can be lost, then any way you cut it, in the end, it is a works-based religion, not a relationship with the One who grants eternal life.
As I have been studying once again the all-sufficiency of Christ and His sacrifice for me and on my behalf, I marvel that He would do what He did for someone who, when left to myself, will ignore Him at best and deny Him at worst. Yet, His love compelled Him to give up His life to the point of death in order that I might share in the wealth of His eternal riches. How can I not thank Him every day for that?
Though I had been raised in a home that knew of God, worshiped Him on Sundays, and learned Bible stories and lessons as a child, I did not became a Christian until the age of 13. I made the decision to receive Jesus into my heart. All I know is that things began to dawn on me and I realized (to the extent a child of 13 can realize) that I needed someone outside myself to lift me up, to save my soul. That Someone was found in Jesus.
I look back over the years and in some ways, I feel as though I am just now beginning to understand what it means to be a Christian. Too often, we judge by appearances, don’t we? We see people and we quickly categorize them into the “lost” or the “saved.” When we do that, we tend to lose sight of the actual person because they’ve simply become part of a category.
God wants us to see people – all people as individuals who are loved by Him – and while there are still saved and unsaved, the truth of the matter is that we really don’t know to the point of surety who is and who is not saved. Yes, fruit is a great indicator, isn’t it? Yet, to read some of the biblical narratives regarding false prophets and teachers, it is clear that many of them exuded a type of fruit that convinced many they were true and above-board. We cannot bet our lives on it, could we? We shouldn’t. That is God’s department.
I firmly believe that God will look for every possible way to save someone if that person seeks God. I was thinking of a few well-known people whom I thoroughly believe are apostates. My problem is that I realize what they teach today is apostasy, I have no way of knowing whether or not at one point they actually did receive Jesus as Savior and were granted eternal life. I have no way of knowing what their particular case is now. All I can do is see their lives and though they may be wealthy or seemingly “blessed,” the truth of the matter is that the error they teach has placed them on the path of spiritual death (but not loss of eternal life). Should they continue in that error, God may choose to remove them prematurely from this life in order to keep them from heaping up more and greater sin against themselves.
I don’t know their heart. I cannot see into their minds. I cannot tell you whether or not people are saved even after they tell me they are so. We all have a continued propensity to sin because the sin nature remains alive and well in us. It works its “death” on us even though we have eternal life in Christ. The most we can do is to continue to submit ourselves to Jesus on a daily, moment-by-moment basis so that, through His empowering, we will not give into the temptations and proclivities of the flesh.
There also must come a time when each and every Christians comes to terms with what it means to have assurance of salvation. To know Christ is to have eternal salvation. To understand the truth of God’s Word is to have assurance of that salvation.
I’m thankful for my salvation. I’m thankful that I am sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). I am thankful that nothing can take me out of His hand (John 10:29), and I am extremely grateful that only God knows the true contents of each person’s heart. If He could save the penitent thief who hung next to Jesus during the crucifixion, promising him that he would be with Jesus in paradise that very day (Luke 23:43), then this same Jesus can save anyone who comes to Him. God’s love is that grand, that all-inclusive, that open to any and all who come to Him seeking actual truth.
There is nothing greater that we can and should be thankful for every physical day of our lives than this absolute truth. God will save everyone who comes to Him. He will seal them. He will discipline them when needed. He will work in and through them to bring others to Him. He will be glorified in all things.
Christians are to be light to the world of darkness around them. We should be light because He is light and if He resides within us, then His light will shine through us. All too often, I think we still get caught up in the “rules and regs” of being a Christian. Yes, there is a way to live that pleases God and that is what we should strive for in our daily living. Unfortunately, I think way too often, too many Christians put the rules and regs before the eternal life.
Christians are supposed to work in union with Christ to accomplish His will. This is not done by externals, but by the internal Presence of the One who gives us life. We submit to Him and His will. He lives His will in and through us.
I am thankful that He does not leave me without the necessary help from the Comforter. I am thankful that God does not expect me to do it on my own. I am thankful that He provides everything I need to live a life of godliness that brings Him glory.
I am thankful.