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Thanksgiving 101

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 18, 2023 3:00 am

Thanksgiving 101

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 18, 2023 3:00 am

Have you had a great week that makes it easy to praise God? Or are you struggling to find joy or a reason to be grateful? Listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg to discover two solid reasons everyone can give thanks, regardless of circumstances.


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Welcome to Truth for Life. As you join us this weekend, maybe you've had a great week and you're finding it easy to praise God, or you may be struggling to find joy and to come up with reasons to be grateful. Well, today on Truth for Life weekend, Alistair Begg gives us two solid reasons all of us can give thanks, no matter what our circumstances. We're studying Psalm 100. Well, it is the only Psalm that has this heading, and if you have your Bible open, you will see it, a psalm for giving thanks, and it has been used as a psalm for thanksgiving, of course, for many years. And what the psalmist is doing here is he is issuing a call to worship, a call to praise and to thanksgiving, and on the strength of two realities—one, that the Lord is God, and two, that the Lord is good.

All right? So that's the framework for our study this morning. Here we have a call to thanksgiving on the strength of the fact that the Lord is God and the Lord is good.

So we'll approach it in that way. What he's essentially doing is doing what people generally do when they speak about something that they care about. You know, when somebody cares about something, then they will almost inevitably include those around them in their expressions of appreciation. Well, the psalmist is issuing a call, you will notice here, that is not in any way limited nor in any way territorial. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

All the earth. So in other words, this is not some tribal deity of Israel that is being called to be worshiped by a select and small group of people. But the call is going out from the psalmist's lips, the trumpet blast, if you like, goes out, calling the entire earth to do what the earth ought to do, namely, to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Now, this is in keeping with the fact that the psalmist—again, in an earlier psalm—has declared the fact that the knowledge of God and the glory of God has gone out to the extent of the earth. So, for example, Psalm 19, the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words whose voice is not heard. So God has revealed himself to all of creation, and he then calls all of creation—the psalmist calls all of creation—to worship the God who has made himself known. Now, the fact is that every individual who has been made has been, if you like, as one of my friends puts it, stung with a knowledge of God. Men and women actually believe in God.

If they choose not to believe in God, it is because they have decided not to believe what innately inside themselves they actually know to be the facts. And by general revelation, by means of creation, by the work of God in providence, by the reality of oughtness or moral conscience within men and women, there is that understanding of the fact that there is something and there is someone that is beyond ourselves to whom we are actually accountable. Now, many of you come from a scientific background.

I don't, and I make that perfectly obvious Sunday by Sunday. But I am aware of the fact that when you encounter design and complexity and beauty, you realize that beauty, as one scientist puts it, slips through our scientific net. That beauty slips through the scientific net. So the beauty of a sunset or the beauty of a rainbow, which only a few of us may be able to give any explication of, any understanding of scientifically, whether we are able to do that or not do that, each of us understands beauty. And we also understand that beauty exists and doesn't depend on being recognized. So that all of the paintings in the Cleveland Museum this morning that are beautiful are beautiful whether we recognize them or whether we don't.

When the lights are turned off and nobody's in there, they're still beautiful. The fact that a blind man cannot see the sun does not call in question the reality of the sun or its rays. And the very complexity of things points in that direction. You see, when you think about it in these terms, you realize how hard it is to be an atheist. How hard you have to work at it to be an atheist. And we are prepared to recognize that some—and some who were present with us this morning—may actually declare themselves in that way.

And so I'm glad to have the opportunity to talk with you by means of this format. So anyone thinking along these lines and responding to the call to worship and responding by saying, Well, I don't want to worship God in this way, may feel somehow or another that they have thereby closed down the relevance of it in its entirety. But not so. The Bible actually helps us to understand why it is that people then would respond in that way. They would face up to the complexity of life and still not have any interest in pursuing the notion of a God who made them, and certainly not of worshipping a God who made them. For them, all these pieces of complexity and beauty and design are just bits of furniture, as it were, lying around in the cosmos.

But there is a reason for that reaction. Listen to how Paul puts it in Romans chapter 1, verse 18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness—notice the phrase, suppress the truth.

Suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they're without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God—notice the phrase—or give thanks to him. You see, it's not that they don't give thanks. It's that they don't give thanks to him. That's not simply a problem of atheism. That's a problem of Christianity as well. Plummer, when he wrote his great missive on the Psalms in the nineteenth century, at one point he makes the observation that practical atheism is terribly prevalent.

Practical atheism. What does he mean by that? Well, he means what we actually said in that general confession.

Remember where it said—and I can't quote it exactly—in the general confession, it says, And so we give thanks to you, not simply with our lips, but also with our lives, so that by our lives we declare the reality of our gratitude, not simply with our lips. So it's perfectly possible for us, if you like, to be theoretically, to be intellectually theistic, and yet to be practically atheistic. Oh yes, I believe very much in God, but I don't like what he says about marriage. I believe in God entirely, but I don't like the beginning of the Bible. I believe in God, I'm a great believer in God, but I don't like this, I don't like that, the next thing.

So you're actually practically an atheist the way you live your life. You want to hold onto it intellectually, but in terms of morally, no. Well, you see, that's the deficiency that Paul is addressing in Romans 1. We must move on from it. But what he's talking about there when he talks about the foolishness in futility of thinking that men have become foolish, he's not talking about intellectual deficiency. Clearly not.

He is talking about moral propensity. And it is to the whole earth, believing and unbelieving, that the cry is issued from the lips of the psalmist, Make a joyful noise to the LORD all the earth. Make a noise.

Shout. And then, not only to shout but also to serve, and also with gladness, not like, Oh, golly, I can't believe we have to do this again. And also to sing, come into his presence with singing. Now, the thing I want us to notice—and that brings us to point two and three, because we've done enough on one—but the praise and the thanksgiving of the people of God is not an overflow of our experience but is to be an expression of our faith. You see, we often go immediately south on this when we talk in terms of praise or worship.

And that's why people will then talk about their preferences, the songs they like, the songs they don't like, how it makes me feel, how it doesn't make me feel, and so on. Those are all important conversations. But the thing to notice here is that the striking call to worship, which goes out to the ends of the earth, for from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same, the Lord's name is to be praised. This call to worship, you will notice, is built on, first of all, knowing that the Lord is God. Knowing that the Lord is God. So, you see, this actually turns on its head the prevalent notion that what we really need to do is understand who we are, and once we understand who we are, then if we have any time left over, we can go and consider the possibilities of a creator, of a Lord, of a God.

Now, Calvin says, No. No person, he says, can arrive at a true knowledge of himself without having first contemplated the divine character. So, in other words, it is until we encounter God in his revelation of himself, both generally in creation and in providence and in conscience, and then, savingly, in the person and work of his Son, it is only then that we can put the pieces of the puzzle together in relationship to our lives—figure out why we are and who we are. You see, the Bible is very clear. There is only one living and true God. There's only one living and true God who is infinite and who is perfect.

That's a staggering statement, isn't it? In the pluralistic, polytheistic culture in which we live. But all the way through the Bible—and I challenge you, encourage you to read the Bible and see if this is the case—all the way through the Bible, you will notice that God, through his servants, is calling his people to distinguish themselves from all of the polytheism that surrounds them. Here, O Israel, the Lord your God the Lord is one, and you shall love the Lord your God.

We say it all the time, don't we? Now, he then says, listen, folks, the idols of the nations—I'm quoting the Psalms again—the idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by hands of men. In contrast to, know that the Lord he is. He is.

That's the first thing. He is. The is-ness, if you like, of God. That's why Hebrews 11 says, Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is. He is. He's not a figment of the imagination. He's not like the idols of man that are crafted by their own hands. He is self-existent.

Before there was time, before there was anything, there was God. He is, he is God, and he alone is God. Now, it is that, you see, which underpins the call for the whole earth to praise him. Otherwise, it seems rather bizarre, doesn't it?

That the psalmist would be saying, And I'd like the whole world to praise this person. That's because he's not introducing us to some iconic deity of diminished influence but to the sovereign creator of the entire universe. You see, he made us, that's what he says. It is he who made us. He doesn't need us.

We need him. He made us. That's true of all creation.

And what is true of creation is also true by way of redemption. And presumably, the psalmist has in mind here the call of God to Abraham, that, I will be your God and you will be my people. And he establishes a people for himself. And he adds into that company of those who are truly believing in Yahweh, others who have been so far removed from it—Gentiles who had no interest in it.

So that by the time Peter is writing in his first letter, he's able to say both to Jew and to Gentile that you are a chosen nation, you are a people that God has made for his own possession. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. That's who you are. He made you. He made you. Created you.

Redeemed you. He is the potter. And we are the clay. Well, the clay say to the potter, Why have you made me thus, when I wanted to be tall, when I wanted to be whatever it might be? God knows exactly what he's doing.

And when he puts the team together, he puts it together purposefully. He is the potter, but he is also the shepherd. And we are the people and the sheep of his pasture. So you're both an old clay pot, and you're a sheep.

You say, Well, thank you very much. Well, Jesus said, I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. You see, it's very hard to read this psalm without thinking of how it would be fulfilled. Where and how will eventually all the earth give praise to God?

When one day at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess. How, today, can anybody enter the presence of God? I mean, do you just walk in? Do you just show up?

What do you do? Is there an entry? How do you enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise? There has to be an entryway. How do you get in? Jesus says to his fathers, he says, I'm actually going… In my father's house, there are many mansions.

If it weren't so, I could have told you. But I'm going to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also, and you know the way to the place where you're going. And Philip goes, Excuse me, we don't know where you're going, so how can we know the way?

Perfect setup! And Jesus says, I am the way, and the truth and the life, and no one enters my father's house, except through me. There is actually only one way—to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. That's why Luther and Calvin and the Reformers, along with him, saw the hundredth psalm as a prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, which, when you look at it, makes wonderful sense. So that the audible, joyful, thankful praise is grounded in the fact that the Lord he is God and, finally, that the Lord he is good. For the Lord is good. And his love doesn't vacillate. It's steadfast. It's the covenant-keeping love of God.

Hesed. In the Hebrew, the hesed love of God endures forever and is faithfulness to all generations. Now, let me end by just allowing the Word of God to settle in our minds in relationship to this. This thought here, that the Lord is good, as it is expressed not only in verse 5 but also elsewhere. Psalm 23.

Same thing. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. That's good.

That covers the whole shooting match right there. Better still, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. So we not only have time covered by the goodness of God, but we also have eternity covered by it. The psalmist in Psalm 25 goes on, thinks about his life, thinks about the mess that he's made at different points along the way, and he says, Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions. According to your steadfast love—which never fails, right? According to your steadfast love, remember me—for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious—this is God declaring himself to Moses on the mountain—a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands. Thousands and thousands and thousands. If you did pottery at school, unless you were very good, I hope you don't have much of it left, right? Those early days when even your mother was hard-pressed to go, Ooh, that is very nice, son.

Let me try and find a place for that. And you never saw it again. But God as the potter does not discard his work. We're broken, chipped, fragile, misshapen. He does not discard his work. Why? Because he's good. Because his steadfast love never ceases. The shepherd does not abandon his sheep. You're a wandering sheep this morning.

Yeah. You try to go out under the fence and off on your own and across the street, and you wonder why it is that you've been so unbelievably unsuccessful at really pulling it off. I'll tell you why. Because the steadfast love of a good God never ends. He continues to pursue you. There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold, and one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold. And then it goes on, that amazing line, But none of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed, or how dark was the night that the LORD passed through when he found his sheep that was lost. Oh, we've got ninety-nine. Who needs the other one? And he left the ninety-nine, and he went for the one.

Why? Because of the kind of God he is. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.

He has all the time for us. He has time for us in the way that the most loving Father doesn't even come close to the affection and care and pursuit and interest of a good God. God has no grandchildren.

He only has sons and daughters. We have grandchildren. That's why we enjoy that luxury of being able to say, How wonderful it was to see you.

Now, on your way, and have a great evening. God, God, we can never exhaust the patience of God. The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him. On those who fear him. Do you fear God? Do you fear God?

To fear God is to love God, to trust God, to know God, to serve God. Do you remember the thief on the cross? Isn't that the very language that he used? When he turned to the other thief, and he says, You know, it's not a good idea that we're badmouthing this man on the middle cross. He says, Don't you fear God? he says. He clearly didn't.

Do you? Augustine memorably said, Remember, there were two thieves. One was saved, therefore don't despair. One was damned, therefore don't presume. And the most dangerous thing that any one of you can do this morning is hearing the call to bow down before God and acknowledge he made you and he saves you in Jesus, to affirm the fact, Yes, I believe that he actually is God, and I believe that he is good, and I'll get round to it when I'm good and well pleased. He has all the time in the world.

You don't. That's why the Bible always says, Now is the accepted time. Behold, today is the day of salvation. You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend.

That is Alistair Begg with a message he's titled, Thanksgiving 101. Our mission here at Truth for Life is to tell the world about Jesus. And in addition to the daily teaching you hear on this program, we love to select books that we can recommend to you that will do just that. Today we're recommending a book you can read with children called The Big Book of Questions and Answers About Jesus.

It's written by author and Bible teacher Sinclair Ferguson. And as the title suggests, it's a collection of questions and answers about the life and ministry of Jesus. If you have school aged children in your family or in the neighborhood, The Big Book of Questions and Answers is an excellent teaching resource that will open the door to hours of gospel conversations. Each question and answer is accompanied by a suggested memory verse, a brief prayer, a Bible passage you can read, and activities to encourage further learning. Check out The Big Book of Questions and Answers about Jesus when you visit our website at

And Bob Lapine, thanks for making us a part of your weekend. Just who is Jesus? When I ask that question, does a baby in a manger come to mind or a man on a cross? Do you think of him as a wise teacher, a good man? Do you see him as God? Next weekend, we'll begin a short series that will help us understand who Jesus really is. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-18 06:08:42 / 2023-11-18 06:17:39 / 9

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