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Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Thankfulness B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
November 24, 2023 3:00 am

Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Thankfulness B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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You want to have a church full of joy and blessing and happiness and peace, where people love each other and the church grows and flourishes? Then have a church full of thankful people.

And if you want to really mess up a party, just bring in somebody who's negative and unthankful. You want to experience radical changes in your attitudes, particularly your thankfulness. As one theologian put it, the inevitable difference between the Christian view of the world and the secular view comes down to gratitude. Of course, the kind of gratitude he's talking about is gratitude to God. So what makes thankfulness so important, both to your relationship with God and your relationship with others? And what should that thankfulness look like? Find out today on Grace To You as John MacArthur helps you be truly grateful.

Important not only during the Thanksgiving season, but all the time. So now with the lesson, here's John. One of the essential attitudes, one of the essential motivations, the essential spiritual realities in the life of the church through which its life flows is gratitude. Turn to Ephesians chapter 5.

Thanks should be a part of our normal speech. Look at Ephesians 5. Do not let immorality, porneia, sexual sin, or any impurity, that's a word that would mean every other form of sexual sin, or greed, even be named among you as is proper among saints.

And, verse 4, there must be no filthiness, dirty talk, no coarse jesting, that's a word for obscenities. No filthy talk, no foolish talk, no obscenities which are not fitting, but rather what? Giving of thanks.

Boy, those two are far apart, aren't they? When you open your mouth, give thanks. Give thanks. I was in the home of Pastor Constantine in Belarus, and he had been in prison for many years, and a godly, saintly man, pastor for many, many years.

He's a great, great man of God. So I said to him, I said, you know, Constantine, I said, you've suffered and you've gone through all this and you went through the communist regime and the whole business. And what was it like? I mean, what kind of things did you suffer and what do we need to know about that time?

What do Christians need to know about that time? And he looked at me and he said, oh no, he said, no, no, he said, I will only thank the Lord. I will not speak of such things. He wouldn't speak of them. He would just thank the Lord.

That's all he would speak about. That is a marvelous thing. When you open your mouth and that's all that comes out is thanks. The Christian life is not nearly as complicated as some people think. It's just these attitudes that we've been talking about, practiced. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, you have an extended command that really says the same thing that 1 Thessalonians 5 18 says. It says in verse 18, do not get drunk with wine, that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. There was this ridiculous idea in the pagan religions that if you got drunk, your drunken stupor induced a higher state of consciousness in which you communed with the deities. It was that very same theory, by the way, that Timothy Leary borrowed from ancient religions and translated into the fifties drug culture, if you really want to transcend and touch the infinite, get high, remember? That was really out of the old pagan religions. And instead of that, Paul says, you're not going to commune with God that way, just be filled with the Spirit. And the result of that is speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. We could sum that up in one small word.

What is it? Joy. And then verse 20, always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father. Constantly, always giving thanks.

That's what a Spirit-filled person does. They're characterized by joy, and they're characterized by thanks. Now, thanksgiving is the normal pattern, and we should be in the Hallelujah chorus thanking the Lord for His mercy in saving us. We should be thanking Him for all the blessings He pours upon us for the way in which we can give and extend those gifts into the lives of others and cause more thanks. Thanks should come out of our mouth every time we open it. We should be thankful in everything, constantly, unceasingly, because the Spirit is controlling our life.

And if He is, we will be. And when you're not thankful, the Spirit's not in control. You say, well, you mean to be thankful even for the difficulties?

Of course, because those are the things working together for good. Those are the things that are perfecting. After you've suffered a while, 1 Peter 5, 10, the Lord make you perfect. James 1, 2, count it all joy when you fall into various trials because they have a perfecting work. Turn to Philippians chapter 4 as we continue this little pilgrimage on this marvelous theme. It says in verse 6, be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.

Just be thankful. Even when you're bringing up your petitions, even when you're praying and your supplications are going before the Lord, it ought to be in an attitude of total thanks. I can't resist Colossians 2, as you, verse 6, have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. Be like Christ. Having been firmly rooted, verse 7, now being built up in Him and established in your faith just as you were instructed, and listen to this, and overflowing with gratitude.

Boy, I'm telling you people, this is such an essential thing. You ought to be overflowing with gratitude. Now, as if what we've read isn't already enough, go one more chapter in Colossians, chapter 3 and verse 15. And he says, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Don't be stressed.

Don't be anxious. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you are called in one body and be thankful. Be thankful. We are called to incessant thanksgiving, constant thanksgiving. The Apostle Paul, always thankful. You say, well, there are a lot of things in life you can't be thankful about. Well, look, if I were Paul, there would be one thing I wouldn't be thankful about, and that would be a really messed up church that was a lot of trouble.

And the one that comes immediately to mind is Corinth, right? Listen to what he said. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you.

And that was just before he laid him out. See, I mean, you've got to do what you've got to do, but shouldn't mess with your thankfulness. You say, what was he thankful about? They were saved. They were God's own, much to be thankful for, even though they broke his heart.

So, this is very important. We are called to an inward incessant joy and a constant thanks. The model for this that I can't resist taking a minute to just show you this, the outstanding model for this to transcend all others, of course, is our Lord. In Matthew 11, 25, just listen, Jesus answered and said, I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and disreveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well pleasing in Thy sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy and My load is light. Jesus is approaching the cross and this is what He says, I praise you, O Father, or actually better translated, I thank you, O Father.

I thank you for the privilege of serving you. He had a thankful heart. It wasn't easy, obviously. He was going to go through agonies we would never be able to comprehend, but He had a thankful heart. You see it repeatedly, pouring out thanks to God. We can't look at all of those times, but just another one maybe, John 11. In John 11, you know, he's dealing with the death of Lazarus and Mary and Martha, and Jesus says to Martha, who's worried because Lazarus has been dead four days, and as the King James says, by now he stinketh. So verse 40, Jesus said to her, Did I not say to you, If you believe, you will see the glory of God?

And so they removed the stone, and they were afraid this horrifying stench would come out. Jesus raised His eyes and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hurtest Me. And then He said, Lazarus, come forth, and He came forth. You wouldn't really think that Jesus would need to thank the Father for anything since He was God, and since the plan was really equally His, but what a wonderful example it is. He thanked the Father for the privilege of ministry. He thanked the Father for hearing His prayer for power on behalf of Lazarus. He could even thank the Father for the death that He would die to redeem sinners. In fact, in all that was so terrible about His humiliation, He was thankful to the Father. Paul tells us then back in our text what we need to hear again and again. In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you. This is His will. There are some things that come into our lives that tend to cause us to be hindered in these right attitudes.

Let me make some suggestions. If you have trouble being thankful, let me tell you perhaps why. Maybe you're not a Christian. Maybe you're deceived. Maybe you just think you've been regenerated.

Maybe you had some emotional experience and nothing more. If you can't find in your heart endless cause for thanksgiving, then maybe you don't have a new life. And maybe you ought to do as 2 Corinthians 13, 5 says, examine yourself to see if you're in the faith. Moving beyond that, let me give you a second thing that can hinder your gratitude. Doubt about God's sovereign power. Or let's say doubt about God. If you don't think God is really in charge, if you're ignorant about that or don't believe it, if you're not sure God is really all wise, if you're not sure He knows everything about everything, if you're not sure He really loves you as His own, if you're not sure He really has your best interest in mind, if you're not sure He's trying to perfect you into the image of His Son, if you don't understand your God and His purposes, then you may not be thankful. Or, I might add, if you do understand them but you tend to forget them, why not be thankful for anything if you know God's power is at work in it, God's wisdom is at work in it, God's purpose is at work in it, God's love is expressed through it. But if you doubt that, you're going to have a problem being thankful. A third thing that may be the cause hindering gratitude is selfishness.

And this links up so much with joy. It's that attitude that says, no matter what I got, I don't have what I really want. I don't have enough.

I want more. And my will is more important than God's will. I don't know what God has for me, but I know what I want for me and God ought to deliver.

Boy, that will really destroy gratitude. I want my circumstances different. I want my children different. I want my life different. I want my ministry different. I want my spouse different. I want my job different.

I want a lot of things different. I want more of this and less of that. If that's what drives you and you've set your own agenda, then you're going to have trouble. On the other hand, if you say, I only want what God wants and I'll believe that God will give me what He wants me to have, then you can be thankful, right? Fourthly, worldliness, awful hard to sort yourself out from that in this culture. If you're into the pleasures and the people and the places and the possessions and the pursuits and the popularity and the prestige, and you just want all the stuff that the world says makes people satisfied and happy, you're going to have trouble being thankful because you're never going to have all that. And when you get some of it, you won't have enough of it.

A fifth thing that I might mention is a critical spirit. If you're bitter or negative, if you just kind of have a sour attitude on life, and you know how you get that? You get that by having unrealistic expectations of what you deserve. You get that because you think you ought to control everything and there are some things you can't control and that bothers you. And you get that and, you know, this is the sad part, and then you feed it like a monster until it gets as big as a dinosaur.

And every time you speak, or most of the time, the dinosaur roars because you've cultivated it. Don't let yourself be critical two days in a row or two hours in a row or two half hours in a row. Don't build that kind of habit.

If it's unchecked, it'll just smash a thankful heart into bits. This attitude will corrode your love, it'll corrode your joy, it'll corrode your peace, it'll corrode your spirituality. A critical spirit that always criticizes, sees what's wrong with everybody else. What's negative? What isn't the way you want it? What isn't under your control? Always looking at things from the negative side is a terrible, terrible thing to do.

When you cultivate that habit, you get so into it, it becomes a monster to slay. A sixth hindrance to gratitude is impatience, impatience. God isn't moving fast enough. It's not so much that they want this or that, it's that they want it now. They've got their own timetable and the perception is that God's not on their schedule. They got it in their appointment book and He's not keeping the appointments. They want God to work for them when they want Him to work, impatience.

You need to learn to just be patient. Let God unfold His purposes in His time and be thankful that He knows better the timing than you do. I'll give you two more, coldness. By that, what I mean is spiritual lukewarmness, lack of zeal for God, lack of diligence in the Scripture, lack of passion in prayer, lack of interest in worship, neglect of the Bible, wasting your time on trivia, spiritual lethargy, spiritual indifference. That produces a coldness and a lukewarmness that just kills gratitude. When you spend your time in the Word and you spend your time in prayer and you spend your time in worship and you spend your time in service to the King and the kingdom, it excites gratitude.

And one last point, I guess this would be number eight if you're listing them, rebellion, rebellion. And this is the strongest attitude, I think, that mitigates against gratitude. And this is when you're in a settled state of outright anger toward God because things didn't go the way you wanted them.

And it's become a settled state of rebellion. You are angry with God. I got a letter, an email, and it starts out, I just read through the stack today. This letter from a sweet lady from back somewhere in the east and she says, thank you for your ministry and radio and my husband and I listened and we loved grace to you and my husband had a job and he felt through listening to you and the development of ministry began to well up in his heart and he decided God wanted him to preach. And so he went off and got into a small church.

And you know, I'm reading, I'm saying this is wonderful and this is a great story. And then something didn't go the way he wanted it to go. She said, in this small church and it turned him bitter at God and for 14 years he has not entered a church. Fourteen years. He is angry. And she said, as a loving wife, I have prayed for him 14 years. She said, I'm at the end of my rope. Would you please pray for him and if it's in your heart, write him a letter?

Well, I will. Fourteen years of rebellion against God. Would you like to live with a thankless person like that in a constant state of rebellion? That woman must be some woman.

She's patient. And all of that stuff, all of that doubt, selfishness, worldliness, critical spirit, impatience, coldness, rebellion, all of that is sin...sin. That man should have said, what was God saying to me? What was He trying to show me? What could I have learned and how can I praise Him and thank Him?

And the reason he's been in that condition for 14 years is the reason he'll stay there. It's because he's got such a bitter attitude toward God and until he deals with that sin, he can't be used. All this kind of stuff in gratitude just destroys the church. You want to have a church full of joy and blessing and happiness and peace where people love each other and the church grows and flourishes? Then have a church full of thankful people. And if you want to really mess up a party, just bring in somebody who's negative and unthankful. Watch out for those hindrances.

Don't let them get cultivated in your life. We have so much to be thankful for, beloved. God's holiness that makes Him perfect and He never makes a mistake. God's goodness and mercy which is always available, which is overflowing and abounding toward us. The gift of Jesus Christ, that unspeakable gift for which we are thankful. All good gifts that flow down from the Father of lights, victory over sin and death, divine guidance, complete provision for all our needs, the hope of heaven, the power of the Word, and on and on and on we go. Lots of reasons to give thanks. And if the church is to be the church of Jesus Christ and His life is to flow through that church, it'll be people who are filled with gratitude, even for the trials, even for the pain, even for the suffering.

And my prayer is that God will fill your heart with joy no matter what and that you'll rejoice always and in everything give thanks. That's crucial to the life of the church. And you can do it on the basis of this one little verse in Philippians 2, 13. It is God who is at work in you.

Isn't that great? And what's He doing? To will and to work for His good pleasure. And since He's at work in you using all this stuff to work for His own good pleasure, the next verse says, you can do all things without grumbling. You can do all things with joy and gratitude. Father, we thank You so much for Your mercy and kindness toward us. We thank You for the way in which You have consistently demonstrated Your goodness. And Lord, fill us with thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for, even the difficulties for those we thank You. It's easy in the good times.

It should be easy in the hard times if we understand the purpose. And may we begin every day, no matter how challenging it might be, by thanking You for being faithful and making Your mercies new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. By thanking You for all that is ours in Christ, by thanking You for eternal life, the hope of heaven, guidance, direction, truth, trials which humble us, trials which shape us. Give us thankful hearts. You are worthy to be praised.

You are worthy to be thanked. It is a sin not to do so. Forgive us for that sin. And put us in a path of righteousness where we are in everything thankful. And may it be infectious to those around us that the thanks may redound to Your glory in Christ's name. Amen.

That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary in Southern California. Today's lesson on Grace To You examined the fundamental Christian attitude of thankfulness. Well, John, here it is the day after thanksgiving, and one thing that I know you and I will not be doing today is running out to do Christmas shopping.

But, because many people will be doing some gift buying today and over the weekend, I know you'd like to give some suggestions for gifts that are easy to purchase online and that, most important, will have lasting value. Right, eternal value. And that's the prize of all gifts, isn't it?

To give somebody something that is life transforming and affects even eternity. Let me remind you about the first thing, the MacArthur study Bible. It's been around for a while now, 1997 it came out and millions of copies of it have found their way into the hands of people all over the planet. And I think now in eight or nine languages as well. So, you should have a MacArthur study Bible. It's the text of the Bible. You can choose from the New American Standard, the New King James, or the ESV, whatever your favorite is.

I preach from the New American. And, along with the text of Scripture, there are 25,000 footnotes that explain virtually every passage, every verse. There are all kinds of outlines. There are articles in the front and in the back and indexes and just everything you need to bring the Bible to its full life. And, of course, having a Bible is one thing, understanding it is quite another and we want you to be able to understand it and that's why the study Bible has been produced.

You can also get it in premium leather editions, just lots of options, lots of choices. And I said multiple language, you can check all that on the Grace To You website. I would also mention the MacArthur Daily Bible. It's a daily reading plan, including a portion of the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs for every day. Great resources for devotional reading through the year.

And you could start right at the beginning of 2024 or you could give this as a gift to folks to be able to do that. It will have a dramatic effect on their year because the Word of God always accomplishes God's purpose. It features the New American Standard Text with added notes along the way to give you insights, kind of like devotionals tied to each day's reading. The Study Bible or the Daily Bible, perfect gifts for Christmas and we hope you're thinking that way. Just quickly to mention one other thing, the MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series.

Now, this is 33 volumes plus an index volume, so 34 volumes. You can order the whole thing at a great price or you can get them one at a time or one book at a time, like Matthew has four volumes, Revelation has two volumes. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series will take you into the depth of each verse in the New Testament.

With a slowdown in shipping that typically occurs during the Christmas season, I recommend you place your order now. The MacArthur Study Bible, the Daily Bible, or the series called the New Testament Commentary and you can choose from that what you'd like. And if you're ordering from the United States, shipping is free.

That's right, friend. All three of these gifts will benefit your friends and your family for eternity. Order the MacArthur Study Bible, the MacArthur Daily Bible, or the MacArthur New Testament Commentary when you contact us today. You can order anytime at our website, gty.org.

Standard shipping is free, but in this busy season, you should order soon to ensure that your gifts reach you before Christmas. And if you'd like to purchase one of the Bibles or commentaries John just mentioned or any other Grace To You resource, go to gty.org today. And friend, thanks for remembering that this ministry is listener supported. Each day we take God's word to people around the world through this broadcast, through Grace To You television, and through thousands of online resources. And it's the generosity of listeners like you that makes that global ministry possible. At this time of year, it is particularly crucial for us, with nearly a quarter of our annual budget coming in at year-end, to partner with us, mail your tax-deductible gift to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412, or you can donate online at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Be sure to watch Grace To You television this Sunday, DirecTV channel 378, and be here Monday as John kicks off his series titled Heaven's Heroes. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-24 05:40:59 / 2023-11-24 05:51:27 / 10

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