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Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Thankfulness

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
November 23, 2023 3:00 am

Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Thankfulness

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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November 23, 2023 3:00 am

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God wants to be thanked. And when He indicts the whole of the fallen human race, He says, they're not thankful.

They don't acknowledge Me as the source of everything. God is worthy to be thanked. And that's one of the reasons He saved you, to add you to the Hallelujah Chorus, and you're gonna spend forever thanking Him for it.

You ought to start now. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. If you're listening here in the United States, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. We hope you're enjoying some time with those you love today, reflecting on the many ways the Lord has blessed you.

And we're thankful that you've taken time to tune in. Today, John will continue a week of messages designed to help you experience genuine gratitude, not only at Thanksgiving, but every day. The message looks at the fundamental Christian attitude of thankfulness. But before we get to the lesson, John, let me take a moment here to wish you and Patricia and the entire MacArthur family a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. What do you find yourself grateful to God for on this Thanksgiving Day? I always think of Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday, because it's not cluttered with anything, Christmas with all the other stuff, and Easter with all the other stuff. And Thanksgiving is just so simple, Thanksgiving. For our family, there has been a tradition for decades and decades, and that is that we all get together in somebody's house.

As the kid's gotten older, that's kind of moved around a little bit. But the whole point of the day is to talk around the table about the things that we are all thankful for. And as a family, we have so much to be thankful for. The Lord's blessing on our marriage, for one thing, after celebrating our 60th anniversary a couple of months ago, God's faithfulness to us through all those wonderful decades, and still more to come. Our kids love the Lord, our grandkids involved in the church, and great-grandkids also being raised in the church. We just found out we're going to have another one, so that'll be six great-grandkids in a few months. Congratulations.

Well, thank you. It's a joy, because they're being raised by parents that love Christ, and they're a part of the ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ. And I think so often about that these days, because this is a dire, dire world for a child to navigate. There is an all-out assault on children.

Everybody knows about it. And a good church, a strong church, is a haven for these Christian families, so we're thankful for that. Everything you could think of in terms of what the Lord has delivered, we are thankful for. And you can sum it up by saying that He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, and we're thankful for every one of them. Thanks, John.

And, friend, whether you're celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S., or maybe tuning in somewhere else around the world, we are thankful that you've made time for this broadcast. So now, take your Bible, if you're able, and follow along as John begins the lesson. One of the essential attitudes, one of the essential motivations, essential spiritual realities in the life of the church through which its life flows is gratitude. I can remember many, many years ago reading a very fascinating story in Luke's gospel that has stayed with me as one of those passages that lingers in my mind, and the Spirit of God brings it back to me. It comes in chapter 17 of Luke and verse 11, and it came about while He was on the way to Jerusalem that He was passing between Samaria and Galilee, up on the north part above Jerusalem, and He entered a certain village, and as He did, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him. Lepers always stood at a distance because it was believed and probably true that their particular disease had infectious capabilities, and so they were basically quarantined and isolated into leper colonies, and they were kept to themselves apart from any interaction with healthy people. And so these ten lepers stood at a distance from Jesus, and they raised their voices.

They had to yell at Him from the distance. Verse 13, saying, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when He saw them, He said to them, Go and show yourselves to the priests. It might seem like a strange command, but it wasn't because when a leper believed that he had indeed recovered from his disease and was well, he was to go to the priest, and there was to be a purification ceremony to assure that that, in fact, was the case as much as they could in ancient times, and then he could recirculate among the people. And so Jesus said to them, Go and show yourselves to the priests. And as they went, it says, they were cleansed. They started out in an act of faith, heading for the priests. Nothing had happened before they started in that direction. It happened as they were going, ten of them. This is the remarkable part of the story. One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned 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.

It's almost inconceivable that one could be cured of something as terrible as leprosy, something which rendered a person socially unclean and ceremonially unclean and put you in an isolation with others of that same frightening disease. Cut yourself off from the family and loved ones and the synagogue and all the social events and all the interaction that makes up life, and then to be totally cleansed, you would think that ten of them would have come back and fallen at the feet of Jesus and given thanks. The only one who did, interestingly enough, is a Samaritan. And the interesting part about that is there was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans, and there was a mutual hate that had been engendered by the fact that Samaritans were a half-breed people. That race of people came from the loins of Jews who intermarried with Gentiles, a despicable thing to most Jews in the ancient world, and so this was remarkable indeed, for here came a Samaritan falling on his face at the feet of a Jew and thanking Him. And Jesus answered and said, Were there not ten cleansed but the nine?

Where are they? Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God except this foreigner? And He said to him, Rise, go your way. Your faith...literally in the Greek, your faith has saved you. Ten got healed, one got saved.

It's a wonderful story for the one, it's a tragedy for the nine. It illustrates that how ugly ingratitude is, being unthankful, how hard to understand that these people could so quickly forget the very one who was the source of their cleansing. In Romans chapter 1, as we think about this matter of gratitude, when the Apostle Paul indicts society, sinful society, when he indicts the nations of the world, the indictment is very specific. He says in verse 21 of Romans 1, even though they knew God, everybody coming into the world knows God. They don't know Him personally, they don't know Him savingly, but they know Him. They know Him through reason.

They can observe creation and reason to a first cause and know a lot about that first cause by the character and nature of creation and all of its manifestations. And they can know God as judge by the understanding of moral law that is written into the fabric of their life. Romans 2 talks about that.

The Gentiles who have no law have a law written in their hearts and a conscience to go with it which activates the law in response to their behavior. So they know God through reason and they know God through the moral law in their hearts. But you notice in verse 21, even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. It is right at the top of God's list of damning sins in gratitude, in gratitude.

It so characterizes fallen men, it certainly shouldn't characterize God's people. We can understand that nine lepers who didn't know God could be thankless. We can understand a world of thankless people. I cannot understand a thankless Christian when we understand what the Lord has done for us.

And nor can God understand a thankless Christian. Turn to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 18, and again a very brief command. Verse 18 says, in everything give thanks.

And that's all we need to look at. Obviously, this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. In everything give thanks. God desires this. That little phrase at the end of verse 18 actually follows all three commands, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.

All three of those sum up God's will for you in Christ Jesus. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, there were sin offerings. And sin offerings were to be constant reminders to the people of their sinfulness.

They would just go in and give them over and over and over and over. That was not only the offering of the Day of Atonement, but all through the year there were necessary sin offerings being made, and the people of Israel were making them at all times. There were actually twenty-four courses of priests who came down to Jerusalem, and each course of priests served for two weeks, and that made up the full year. And they spent those two weeks coming from their various towns and villages where they lived, coming to the temple, and they spent those two weeks with blood up to their elbows butchering incessantly the animals that were coming in to be offered as sacrifice. None of those animals could take away sin, but they were constant reminders to the people of their sinfulness and the requirement of sinfulness, which is death, the desperate need of forgiveness, atonement, cleansing, and righteousness before God. But there were another kind of offering that was given in the Old Testament. They were called thank offerings, you remember them, and also called in Leviticus chapter 7 peace offerings. And those were designed not to remind the people of sin, but to remind the people of their need to be thankful to God for all of His merciful and gracious provisions for their needs. They would bring in a sheaf of grain as a thank offering. They would bring oil and wine as a thank offering.

And those were symbols of all of God's provision and reminders that they needed to be thankful to God who supplied everything. Even today as a church, since our Lord Himself ordained it, we have a ceremony as Christians. We call it Communion, or the Lord's Table, or the Lord's Supper. And it combines both the elements of the sin offering in terms of its memorial character and elements of the thank offering into one.

We remember Christ, the sacrifice for our sins, and we offer up thanksgiving for all that that sacrifice has accomplished for us. So when you come to the Lord's Table, you come to what is a table of thanks. Now let's go back to this text, even if it is so brief, and remind ourselves of this simple command, in everything give thanks.

It's a lot like rejoice always because it has that unlimited requirement in everything. In panti in the Greek, it has the idea of being in connection with everything that occurs in life no matter what it is, with the exception of personal sin. With the exception of personal sin, in everything give thanks.

No matter what the situation is, no matter what the difficulty, no matter what the trial, we are to find reason to thank the Lord. And as I noted for you, thanklessness is a sin that characterizes the unregenerate, those who know not God. In fact, just to expand your understanding of that a little bit, remind yourself of 2 Timothy 3. In that text, it says, realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come for men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy. And what Paul is saying there is that in the last days, ingratitude will characterize people. Down in that same chapter in verse 13, he said that evil men will get worse and worse. The closer we get to the coming of Christ, the more wicked men become, the more wicked they become, the more thankless they are. Thus, we are not surprised to see unsaved people going through life complaining, bitter, angry, thankless, without any gratitude, expecting everything good that comes their way, and a lot more. The unregenerate man in our culture and our time views life as moving along a path of manipulation and luck combined.

He manipulates as much as he can in hopes for luck to come in and help him. Or he may view life fatalistically as some inevitable force which he must reluctantly accept and he can't do anything about it. Or he may view life as the end product of his sheer genius, of his great effort, of his amazing skill. And we even hear people today be so brash as to thank themselves for what they are. So there are those people who just complain and hope for some lucky break. There are those people who fatalistically think they can't change anything and so reluctantly accept what comes with a thankless heart, believing they are at the mercy of the fates that are purely random.

Or there are those people, those unsavory and egotistical people who think that everything good that comes their way in life is purely the product of their own human genius. But for believers, we know God is at work and we know that God is unfolding a divine agenda and a divine plan and a divine purpose. Each component determined by Him for our benefit and our good and His glory. He's leading us to a sovereignly designed goal where we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.

God is unfolding a purpose and the end of that purpose is good for His own. In fact, 1 Peter 4 in verse 12, Peter says, "'Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing as though some strange thing were happening to you.'" It's not strange to go through a fiery trial.

It's not strange to go through testing when God knows the end result. As Christians, we sin often, I think, with our ingratitude. It's not just the lack of joy that is a sin, it's the lack of gratitude . We ought to be thanking God for every blessing, every small blessing, every small goodness, every large goodness, every little thing that God provides for us. And I think that's why in 1 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul said that you can eat anything as long as you receive it with thanksgiving. Sometimes when I bow my head in some circles to thank the Lord for my meals, which I always do at every meal, somebody will say to me, you know, that's a little bit legalistic.

And my response to that is, no, it's not legalistic, it just reminds me of where every single thing comes from. And I need that. I need that so I don't take God's goodness for granted. The early church made thanksgiving an actual part of their fellowship, and that is not a bad idea, believe me. In 1 Corinthians chapter 14, by the way, a very interesting chapter with a lot of interesting issues. But one of the things that gets passed over in this wonderful chapter is down in verses 16 and 17.

He's talking about blessing. In verse 16, he says, if you bless in the Spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the amen at your giving of thanks? He's talking here about speaking in tongues, or if you're praying with the Spirit, that is in a way that is not a language that can be understood.

If you're singing with the Spirit, people don't know what you're singing. If you're blessing with the Spirit in verse 16, and they cannot understand what you're saying, how can they say amen at your giving of thanks? Now the thing I want to point out here is, it must have been a common part of worship when the people of the Corinthian assembly came together for public thanks. They were singing, they were praying, and we'd do that, and they were saying thanks. Verse 17, you are giving thanks well enough, but when you do it in a way that people can't understand, the other person is not edified.

So the point to draw there is that part of the church's celebration of worship involved a time of giving thanks. I try to do that in the prayer that I pray. We try to do that in the hymns that we sing, but we want you to do that from the heart. That attitude of thanks should be rising up within you. And how often this kind of attitude is missing in the discontent of this age when we have so much, so much, but not enough to be thankful. In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, again, this is such a wonderful verse.

Verse 15, Paul is here defining his ministry as to its purpose, and he says, "'For all things are for your sakes.'" I mean, he didn't do what he did for himself. If he had his own way, he'd go to heaven.

He said that. Far better to depart and be with Christ. He didn't do what he did because he enjoyed persecution and suffering and pain. It was all for their sakes.

He endured it all. He took the pain, took the suffering for their sakes in order that the grace which is spreading, that saving grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to redound to the glory of God. Christians today, fussing and fuming and stressed out and disappointed and depressed about every little thing in their life that doesn't go right, that's a really disgusting sin. Your heart ought to be so overflowing with thanks that it ought to redound, as it says at the end of the verse, or abound to the glory of God. That's what happens, you see, when saving grace comes and spreads among people, it just causes more giving of thanks. Paul's saying it's like every time somebody is converted, we add them to the Hallelujah chorus. It should be the normal pattern for Christians to be grateful and thankful and overwhelmed with thanks.

I am very disappointed in people who are discontent and unsatisfied and unhappy and don't like their circumstances and don't like this and don't like that and want to change their environment and change this instead of being overwhelmed with gratitude for God's great grace. In the ninth chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds all of us about how great God is and how rich He is and how He pours out those riches on those who give. Remember, this section in chapter 8 and 9 is about giving. But pick it up in verse 11 where he says, "'You will be enriched in everything for all liberality.'" In other words, when you give and you bring your money and you give it to the Lord and you give your resources and you give all that you are and have to Him, it says, "'You will be enriched.'" In other words, you can't out-give God. Remember, give and it shall be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together and running over it, it says in Luke, so sparingly reaped sparingly, so bountifully reaped bountifully, it said earlier.

God, in verse 8, is able to make all grace abound to you so that always having all sufficiency in everything you may have an abundance for every good deed. The whole principle here is when you give, God pours it back. You're investing and He pours back a dividend. You're sowing and He brings in the crop. You're putting something in the cup and He fills it to overflowing. You're investing with God and He pours it back.

Why? Verse 11, "'You will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.'" God wants to be thanked. And when He indicts the whole of the fallen human race, He says they're not thankful. They're not thankful.

They don't acknowledge Me as the source of everything. God is worthy to be thanked. And that's one of the reasons He saved you, to add you to the hallelujah chorus and you're going to spend forever thanking Him for it.

You ought to start now. And that's the reason that when you give, He gives back because He wants to hear your thanks. In fact, verse 12 follows it up, "'For the ministry of this service.'" In other words, when you give, when you give your money, is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, it's not just that you're giving so that needs can be met and ministry can go on, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.

Now look, here's...this is a big picture. You give generously. God gives back and you say thanks. The church takes your money, translates it into ministry to other people, and they say thanks. And thanks is multiplied and God is glorified.

You see, verse 13 He says, now remember the scenario here. The Corinthians were giving money. The money would be taken to the poor saints in Jerusalem.

It would be given to them to meet their needs. And in verse 13 He says, "'Because of the proof, the proof of your love given by this ministry, this money, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ.'" They're going to praise God that your salvation is real. They're going to praise God for how He's changed your life as manifest in the liberality of your contribution. And then verse 14, "'While they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.'" And then everybody is going to say, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift. God wants our thanks in everything.

He wants it in everything. You're listening to Grace to You with John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. John's message on this Thanksgiving edition of Grace to You looked at the fundamental Christian attitude of thankfulness, helping you see all that you have to be thankful for all the time. And friend, if you'd like to dive deeper into Bible passages about giving thanks or any other subject, you will find thousands of free study tools at our website,

Connect with us today. At, you can download the Study Bible app. It's a free app that gives you the full text of Scripture in the English Standard, King James and New American Standard versions, along with access to thousands of free online resources related to whatever passage you're studying. And for a nominal price, you can add the notes from the MacArthur Study Bible. That's an additional 25,000 detailed explanations about nearly every verse to help you get all that you can out of your time in God's Word. And keep in mind that at our website, you can download MP3s and transcripts of over 3,600 of John's sermons free of charge. You can read our blog, which has articles on topics like fighting sin or understanding God's love or being a godly parent. And you can also catch any episode of this broadcast that you may have missed. All of those resources and more are free of charge at Now for John MacArthur and our entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Again, a blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day, and be back tomorrow for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-23 05:36:19 / 2023-11-23 05:46:11 / 10

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