Giving Thanks to God for God

Thanksgiving is a time for us to give thanks to God for all that we have. But 2020 has been a rather tough year in a number of ways, and so it is understandable if some people do not really feel much like giving thanks after all. In fact, in some ways I’m sure that many of us will be more than a bit thankful when this particular year is finally in the rear-view mirror.

But there is still much to be thankful for, even in 2020. The Bible is practically filled with exhortations calling the people of God to give thanks to Him, and nowhere is that more evident than in the book of Psalms. Psalm 136 is a great example. In fact, giving thanks to God is its main theme.

In v.1-3 the Psalmist writes,

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;” (ESV)

Three times there (and once more at the end of the Psalm in v.26) we are exhorted to give thanks to God. The rest of the Psalm goes into some detail about all of the great things that God has done both in creation itself as well as in delivering His people from their enemies. And these are all set before us as reasons to give God thanks.

But look again at v.1-3 (above). What is the very first reason the Psalmist gives us for giving thanks? It is not just what God has done for us (as important as that certainly is), but rather who God is. Why are we to give thanks to the LORD? First and foremost because “he is good,” and because “his steadfast love endures forever.” That last phrase is repeated in each and every verse (a total of 26 times!).

The great Puritan Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, puts it this way: “Give thanks to the LORD, not only because he does good, but because he is good . . . .”

That is why the Psalmist tells us to “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good” (v.1). God is good. Do you ever just thank God because He is good? Not just because He has been so good to you (which is also a good reason to thank Him), but just because He Himself is good!

Are you not feeling all that thankful right now? Are you having a tough time giving thanks this year? It is certainly understandable, as I have said before. But may I then encourage you all the more to make it your aim to seek to know God better?

There can truly be no more important thing that you could do than that. The Bible goes so far as to say that knowing God (not just knowing about God, although it certainly includes that) is eternal life! John 17:3 says,

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (ESV)

Certainly if you know the Lord and have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, you of all people have every reason to give thanks to God. For it is in Christ that we have been given every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).

Not only that, but the better that you come to know the God of creation, providence, and salvation, the more reasons you will find to give thanks in all things, even in 2020 and beyond. May we all learn to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever!

The Heidelberg Catechism on the Christian and Good Works

Grace2vol__56981.1453767389The Heidelberg Catechism is outlined or structured around three (3) points or sections, often referred to as Guilt (Q.3-11), Grace (Q.12-85), and Gratitude (Q.86-129). This outline (although not employing these exact terms) is made explicit in Q/A 2:

“Q.2. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.”

The catechism is largely comprised of somewhat lengthy expositions of the The Apostles’ Creed (Q.22-58), The Ten Commandments (Q.92-115), and the Lord’s Prayer (Q.116-129). These things are commonly considered to be the ABC’s or building blocks of the Christian faith and life.

As you can see, most of the “gratitude” section of the catechism in centered around the ten commandments and the Lord’s prayer. And so how we live and pray is really about showing our gratitude to God for our salvation in Christ.

Q/A 86 marks the beginning of the “gratitude” section of the catechism. It says:

Q.86. Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace through Christ without any merit of our own, why then should we do good works? A. Because Christ, having redeemed us by his blood, is also renewing us by his Spirit into his image, so that with our whole lives we may show that we are thankful to God for his benefits, and that he may be praised through us, and further, so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ.

Q/A 86 basically asks the age-old question, if we are really saved by grace alone, and not by works, then why should we as believers do good works? If our works do not merit anything (and they don’t!), then why does it matter how we live?

Paul anticipates a similar objection to the grace of God in the gospel in Romans 6:1, where he writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (ESV) And he answers by saying “By no means!” (v.2)

The answer both in Romans 6 as well as in the Heidelberg is basically that our salvation by God’s grace in Christ includes much more than justification (as vitally important as that is). It also includes the new birth and sanctification (God’s work in us), which involves “renewing us by his Spirit into his image.”

As to why it matters how we lives as believers, Q/A 86 gives us at least four (4) reasons or purposes for the work of God’s grace in sanctification in our lives:

  1. Gratitude (“so that with our whole lives we may show that we are thankful to God for his benefits”)
  2. Praise to God (“that he may be praised through us”)
  3. Assurance (“so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits”)
  4. Evangelism (“by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ”)

The first two of these are God-ward (gratitude & praise), the third is in some way for our own benefit (growth in assurance that our faith is, in fact, genuine), and the fourth is for the benefit of others (that they might be won to Christ). This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is certainly a good starting point in demonstrating the importance of good works in the life of a Christian.

Either way the primary motivation (though certainly not the only proper motivation) for living the Christian life of good works is gratitude for God’s grace in our salvation. This is the same logic that the Apostle Paul applies in Romans 12:1-2, where he writes,

[1] I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

It is in light of the mercies of God toward us in Christ that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Our primary motive for being transformed by the renewal of our minds is gratitude for the mercies of God.

John Owen on Giving Thanks

owen-communion-with-god-2Just a brief post for Thanksgiving. John Owen (1616-1683) with a helpful reminder about the best way to give thanks to God:

“Obedience is the best way of showing our gratitude to God for His grace.” (Communion with God, p.140)

So while we should certainly give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and express that thankfulness with praise (Psalm 136:1), let us remember to give Him thanks with our lives as well, not only on Thanksgiving day, but every day.

Gratitude for God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ is the primary motive for our obedience.