Thursday, November 25, 2010
"And don't be drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" (New Testament, Ephesians 4:18-21).
True thanksgiving is not just for a day but for life, and the Bible encourages us to give thanks "always and for everything." If we take this encouragement seriously, we must admit that it's impossible to obey, even for the most devout among us. Do you know anyone who is truly thankful 24 hours per day 365 days per year, and 366 on leap years? I don't.
This is why this passage begins with the admonition to avoid drunkenness and seek instead the pleasure that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God. It is the presence of the Spirit of God in the soul of a man or woman that makes this high call to thanksgiving possible.
When one is filled with the Spirit of God, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, he or she is able to live with a spirit of thanksgiving rather than of grumbling or what have you. He or she is humble and able to recognize the mercy that's pouring over his or her life, and willing to verbalize his or her feelings to God. The one filled with the Spirit of God has a disposition of thanksgiving.
Further, when one is filled with the Spirit of God, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, he or she is able to give thanks "for everything." What does this mean? Does it mean that if I get diagnosed with cancer I give thanks to God FOR the cancer itself? In a word, no.
Rather, it means that I give thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ because I know that he will work all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (New Testament, Romans 8:28). He may use my cancer to display his power and heal me. He may use it to display his power by sustaining me with strength and joy while I suffer. He may use it to give me the opportunity to share with others the eternal hope I have in him. He may use it to teach me anew that this world is nothing but a vapor and all its hopes like a blade of grass, that it's here today, gone tomorrow.
Whatever his intended purposes, the one filled with the Spirit of God knows that God the Father will accomplish those purposes for the glory of his name, the good of others, and the joy of our souls. This is why he or she is able to give thanks "for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Oh how I pray that this kind of spirit would be ours but not just for today. I pray that we would learn to live lives of humility and thanksgiving before the Lord all the days of our lives.
One more thing: how does one come to be filled with the Spirit of God? Simply by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have all sinned, we've all done wrong, and our sin has greatly offended God--more than we know. Our sin is so serious in God's sight that we can never get it right with him, but because he's filled with grace and mercy, he sent Jesus Christ to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life and thus fulfilled all the laws of God, and he died a horrible death on the cross thus paying the penalty for all our sins. When we believe in Jesus Christ, God counts Jesus' righteousness toward us and he applies his payment toward our sins. In this way, all our sins are forgiven, we are counted righteous in the sight of God, and we are brought back into full fellowship with God.
Part of the restoration of fellowship with God is that God gives his Spirit to dwell in those who believe. It is this indwelling Spirit that allows us to live a life of thanksgiving, "...giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!