Understanding Christian thanksgiving is very important because the Bible clearly teaches us that all righteous works of natural man including thanksgiving are not acceptable before God. “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind” (Isaiah 64:6, The New Living Translation).
Apart from Jesus, all human works are like filthy rags before God. No person in his natural state can please God. None of the works of a person under the bondage of sin is acceptable to God. This is because a person under the power of sin is a slave – of Satan, of the world, and of the flesh. This is the self-centered man. He cannot please God. He can only please himself. A person in order to offer an acceptable thanksgiving to God must first be set free from a self-centered life. He must first be set free from a life of sin.
In this article, I want to share about three basic truths in Christian thanksgiving. It talks about the whole Christian life as a thanksgiving to God, must be lived in Jesus Name, and must be offered to the Father through him. Let me elaborate more what do I mean by these basic truths.
1. Christian thanksgiving means that your whole life is a thanksgiving to God.
In Christian life, there are no exceptions. All of life should be lived for the glory of God. Notice two things here:
First, both actions and words are qualified as part of deeds. This needs to be emphasized particularly the fact that words are deeds themselves. Most people do not think that words are deeds. But for the apostle Paul, words are very important part of human deeds.
Second, we also see in our text both speech and conduct, lips and life are expressions of thanksgiving. We call this integrity. We can also deduce that for the apostle, any form of division in the Christian life is contrary to this idea of wholeness. In Christian life, there is no compartmentalization between the divine and the common, the sacred and the secular. All of life is sacred. This includes working in the shop, factory or office; cooking, doing laundry and washing the dishes at home; doing your homework as a student, and; relating to your neighbors, friends, and loved ones. This means that Christian life affects all spheres of life. A Christian cannot say that Sunday is sacred and week days are secular; or prayers, evangelism, Bible reading and offering are holy activities, but working in a factory, cooking food for your family, doing your assignment, and investing in company stocks are not. The whole of life is religious and holy. This is the biblical view of Christian life.
Someone describes a Christian life as “part-time.” He thinks that he is only Christian during special occassions such as Christmas and Easter. Others see their Christian lives only during Sundays, and not from Monday to Saturday. It seems that many Christians today entertain this kind of idea. They pick the time and place to practice their faith, and in other areas of their lives they refrain from practicing their Christian faith. I hope this will not happen to you. When you allow the world to squeeze you into its mold, you become part-time Christians. Following Jesus is a full time commitment. There is no such thing as part-time Christianity.
2. Christian thanksgiving also means that you must live your life in Jesus’ name.
What is the meaning of “living in Jesus’ name?” The prophet Micah said: “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever” (4:5). The name of a god reflects his character and power. To live in the name of a god means the person depends on the strength and the authority of that deity.
In the case of Christians, the name of Jesus is the highest authority in existence; it is an expression of his character and his power. Therefore, to live in Jesus’ name means that you depend in the power of the indwelling Spirit in you and in Jesus’ authority. This ought to be a habitual respect for Christ’s authority that all your words and actions should be said and done in the Spirit of Jesus and with His approval. And so if there is anything that you are uncertain whether he approves of it or not, this means that such activity is not for you.
Obedience to Jesus authority and dependence on His strength are the two important criteria of doing things in His Name. They change the whole character of our actions. We can test all our actions using these criteria. Again, I repeat, if we think that using them as criteria will not pass a specific activity, it only means that such activity is not for you.
Still another person associates the phrase “in his name” with the idea of representation. This idea is based on the truth that Christians are in covenant with God, and since we are in covenant with God, we have been given a new name and we are His representatives. The name “Christian” means Christ-like or a follower of Christ. And so to do all things in Jesus’ name means to reflect his character in all your actions. And so if there are activities in your life that do not reflect the character of Christ, it only means that you are not doing those activities in Jesus’ name.
Let us take a Christian politician as an example. A Christian Senator may not discuss church doctrines in the midst of national debates, but his whole procedure must be regulated not by the spirit of selfish gain and ambition but by the Spirit of Christ. This would imply biblically informed love for his nation, advocating policies that would benefit not a few special interest groups in a short period of time, but policies that would benefit the nation as a whole with a foresight for the welfare of future generation.
There is a story of two travelers. They reach a place where the road was divided into two. The older man threw his stick up into the air, and let it fall on the ground. Then he did it a second time; and a third time. The younger man was curious about the action of the older man and asked, “Why do you throw your stick up into the air like that?” He replied: “That is how I determine which way to go; we go whichever way the stick points.” “But you threw it up three times?” the younger man said, wondering why he had done so. “Yes, I did!” the old man answered, “this stick would point that way, but I wanted to go this way!“ Many Christians do the same thing. Though God would say “Go straight!”, but we choose our own way.
3. Christian thanksgiving means that you must offer your whole life to God through Jesus.
The author of Hebrews explains the importance of this truth: “Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (10:19-22).
Through the death of Jesus, the veil that separates the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was already torn. This means that access to the Father is now available through Jesus. In living your life as thanksgiving to God, this means that you cannot do away with the mediation of Jesus. Always remember this basic truth that Christ’s death torn the veil to open a way for you to offer a sacrifice of praise that is acceptable to God. Without Jesus, all your praises are unacceptable, but through Jesus, our Great High Priest, we can now continually offer a sacrifice of praise that is acceptable to God.
Colossians 3:17 teaches us that thanksgiving outside of Christ is not acceptable before God. Only Christian thanksgiving is pleasing before him and this includes the entire life, live out in the Name of Jesus, and offered to the Father through him.
A person must be set free first from the power of sin in order to be able to practice Christian thanksgiving. This calls for the need of the gospel. A person must come to the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of his sins, and return back to God. This shows that for a thanksgiving to be acceptable to God, a person must have a personal relationship with Jesus.
As Christians, your entire life is a thanksgiving to God. This includes everything that you do. This includes your actions and your words. This includes your life when you are alone, at home, in the school, with your friends, and wherever you are. Let it be our prayer that our lives and our words will show our thanksgiving to God. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!