There is a TON of talk about gratitude these days… and for good reason.
Genuine gratitude turns our natural inclination toward self-pity and excuse-making toward appreciation. That’s always a good thing.
But I’m convinced that gratitude can be a generic, obscure kind of appreciation if it’s not rooted in something deeper – something that is MORE REAL than simply being glad we have food, or a home, or family, or health.
Gratitude needs to become thankfulness eventually, which means it has to be directed to SOMEONE.
The deepest gratitude – gratitude that lasts – is rooted in deeper things, deeper realities about God and us and what He’s done for us.
The way I think of it is fairly simple…
The depth at which you see what’s been done for you equals the depth of your gratitude.
On November 19, 2017 I was invited to speak to my church family in the Pastor’s absence. It was the Sunday before the Thanksgiving holiday, so I scoured the scriptures for a passage that spoke to the issue of thankfulness. I finally landed on Ephesians 5:1-20.
It’s an EPIC passage about thankfulness and how it, along with many other things, including our behavior, flows from a deeper place – WHO WE ARE in Christ.
I invite you to hear what Jesus taught me in my weeks of preparation. I’m convinced now that we Christ-followers should be the MOST THANKFUL PEOPLE ON THE PLANET. And for good reason.
Below the audio and video players you’ll find the notes/outline I compiled during my study. I pray you will be enriched, filled up with gratitude that lasts.
That Was Then, This Is Now
1st Computer Class: 6th grade – IF/THEN statements
- Basic premise for how life works
- Yet, in our culture we pretend the world doesn’t work that way
Eat processed, sugar-laden foods and expect not to get heart disease/diabetes
Permissive or hands-off parenting and hope to have wise, self-controlled kids
Binge on questionable entertainment and expect it not to impact personal morality
It simply doesn’t make sense… and it wouldn’t make sense to Paul, either.
- Basic Pauline argument – IF the TRUTH → THEN the NEW REALITY and RESULTING life
Said another way…
If you TRULY believe something, it impacts how you live.
One of the easiest places to see Paul’s penchant for this kind of argument…
Chapters 1-3 – TRUTH :: God’s action on our behalf & what it means for us
Chapters 4-6 – NEW REALITY :: How we are to think/act/live in light of the truth
This morning we’ll be examining Ephesians 5:1-20. Laced with reminders of this IF/THEN reality.
Sunday before Thanksgiving
How does this IF/THEN perspective inform our understanding of being thankful?
Twice in this passage Paul refers to the attitude and practice of thankfulness…
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for Godʼs holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Our behavior, including thanksgiving, FLOWS FROM who we are as followers of Christ – v3
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for Godʼs holy people.
- notice – “but among you” :: “improper for God’s holy people”
- His argument is not, “God says these are wrong, don’t do them.”
- His argument IS, “These are behaviors that don’t fit who you are now.”
- The work we have to do when it comes to sexual immorality, impurity, and greed is NOT first of all to grit our teeth and resist with all our might.
- The work is to first BELIEVE we ARE God’s holy people.
- Because we WILL live like who we believe we are.
4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
- notice – “out of place” – construction site VS kindergarten
- Again, Paul’s argument is not, “This kind of speach is wrong, don’t speak that way.”
- His argument IS, “This kinds of speech is of place because of who you are now.”
- The work we have to do when it comes to obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking is not first of all to overcome the habit.
- The work is to BELIEVE we are God’s holy people.
- Because we WILL live like who we believe we are.
And in THIS case Paul describes an alternative use of speech that IS fitting…
- INSTEAD of this kind of talk, we should express thankfulness.
- Thankfulness is an acknowledgement of and response to something good a person has received, right?
- What IS that something good in this case?
- All the truth of Ephesians chapters 1-3 (we’ll get to it)
So it makes PERFECT sense that sexual immorality, greed, and obscenity are NOT FITTING for a person like that!
So to summarize…
If you or I have a problem with…
- sexual immorality or impurity (lust)
- or any other of a number of ungodly behaviors/attitudes…
Our fundamental problem is not that we don’t have enough willpower… it’s that
- we’re not believing who God has made us to be in Christ
- we’re not keeping it top of mind as the core of our identity
5 – For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
- Sounds like certain types of behavior earns a place in the kingdom ~ contrary to salvation by grace, isn’t it?
- Certain types of behavior show who the person really IS, an idolater.
- Something is more precious to them than God – and it’s demonstrated by their behavior – immorality, impurity, greed, profanity
- Modern discussion about cursing as it relates to being authentic as a believer
- Words are just words, they’re not what really matters
- So if you curse as a Christian because it’s just the way you talk, it’s not a big deal, you’re just being who you genuinely are.
- Do you see the problem?
- While they’re trying to approach it from a standpoint of identity – “being who you genuinely are” – they have the wrong belief about who they really are!
- They approach it as… “I’m the kind of person who says a curse word now and then – but I’m still one of God’s holy people.”
- When Paul approaches it as… “You’re the kind of person who has been made holy and pure by the blood of Christ, therefore your language is holy and pure as well.”
- Obscene talk doesn’t flow out of a holy person
- It’s out of place, it’s not fitting BECAUSE OF WHO YOU GENUINELY ARE
6 – Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things Godʼs wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
- Don’t be fooled by empty arguments like that…
- God’s wrath and judgment are coming on those who deny or misrepresent the truth of what He’s done to justify their desired outcomes
7 – Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.
- Do you see how Paul argues from the IF/THEN perspective we began with?
- You USED TO BE darkness, but NOW you are light in the Lord.
- That was then, this is now!
- So LIVE as children of light!
Our behavior as Christ-followers is NOT about keeping a long list of rules or avoiding certain types of behaviors. That’s getting the cart before the horse.
Our behavior as believers is about KNOWING AND BELIEVING WHO WE ARE now.
13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible— 14 and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lordʼs will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always 20 giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- We are no longer darkness, we are light
- We no longer sleep, we are awake to the life and love of Christ
- We are no longer unwise, we are wise
- We are no longer foolish, we are understanding
- We are no longer dependent on things to fill us, we are filled with the Spirit of God
And ALL of that precious reality changes what comes out of our mouths…
- singing truth to each other and praise to God
- Giving thanks always and for everything
- According to Paul’s logic, if we want our language to be “real” and “authentic” we should be obsessing over how much we express THANKFULNESS, not whether or not cussing is “OK.”
- Because AS GOD’S HOLY PEOPLE, we should expect THANKFULNESS to flow from our lips.
Why thankfulness? Because of the contrast between what we once were and what we now are… and the consummation of all God has promised us that is still to come.