Thanksgiving is an entire day that we set aside to be thankful. But our thankfulness isn’t to some blind power of the universe. Thanksgiving doesn’t make sense apart from a Creator who made us and sustains our lives. Without God, thanksgiving is a sham. There would be no need to thank fate or chance for these forces have no will or mind. They cannot be gratified by our gratitude. But there is a Creator who made us, who revealed Himself in the Bible and in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, who exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the God from whom every good and perfect gift comes down (James 1:17). This is the God whom we can thank for our many blessings on Thanksgiving. And the greatest of these blessings are the spiritual blessings which come to us in the new life obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. What are these blessings? Below you will find seven of them, although there are many more that you can discover by reading Christ’s Word as you walk with Him.
Reason #1: Justification
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:8-9).
What precious truth we have here! In order to be thankful for justification we must understand that we are sinners. In fact, the Bible says that every person is a sinner (Romans 3:23) and that every heart is deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We must also understand that the punishment of sin is death and an eternity of suffering without God (Romans 6:23, Revelation 20:11-15).
Yet, God loves us even though we’re sinners! What evidence do we have of this? “Christ died for us.” God sent His Son into the world that He could be your substitute—that He could die in your place! The Bible declares that Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15) and therefore He did not deserve to die. Yet, He gave up His life to take your punishment that you might live in His place (1 Peter 3:18).
Because of what Jesus did that day on the cross, you can be justified! The word justified (δικαιόω, dikaioō) is a legal term. It means to declare innocent or righteous. Even though you have sinned against God and were headed for eternal condemnation, God can declare you innocent because Jesus took your place. Therefore, if you are in Christ, God, the universal and eternal judge will not hold you eternally guilty and you will be saved. How can you take hold of this justification? By surrendering your life to Jesus Christ—that is by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:14-15).
Reason #2: Sanctification
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
In Ephesians, Paul has explained the mystery of the gospel. Nearing the end of his letter, Paul is explaining how the gospel of Jesus makes a difference in our interactions with others. He uses Christ’s love for the church to explain how husbands should love their wives. In doing so, Paul reveals a great blessing in the gospel for which we can be thankful: sanctification.
Paul first reminds the Ephesian husbands that Christ “gave Himself up” for the church. Then Paul explains why Jesus gave Himself up. He did so in order that He might sanctify the church. What does sanctify mean? The word used here is ἁγιάσῃ (agiasē) which means to make holy or righteous. It carries the idea of consecration, that is the setting apart someone from profane things.
The idea is that through justification, Christians are declared righteous. In sanctification, Jesus works to make Christians what He has declared them to be—innocent and righteous. Jesus, by His Spirit, convicts Christians of their sins and gives them the will to put those sins away. He also convicts them and guides them into righteous acts. And how does Jesus do this? He does it “by the washing of water with the word.” Jesus uses the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:13, 2 Peter 1:20-21) to make His people righteous. So this Thanksgiving, we get to be thankful that Jesus doesn’t give up on us because we are too sinful. Instead, He works to change us. Just as Paul encourages us, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Reason #3: The Promise of Glorification
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).
We can also be thankful for the promise of glorification. What is glorification? If justification is the beginning of salvation and sanctification is the process of salvation, then glorification is the end or result of salvation. In the passage above, Paul has explained that God’s love for His people is eternal and victorious in Jesus. Then he makes the promise that “God causes all thing to work together for good” for those who are in Christ. But what is the good for which God works? It is not our selfish desires. It is our glorification! Paul strings together the process of salvation which includes God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.
The word glorified is ἐδόξασεν (edoksasen) which means to make glorious or to clothe with splendor. God created mankind in a glorified state—in His image (Genesis 2:26-27). But mankind rebelled against God and that rebellion marred the image of God in mankind so that man is not quite what he was meant to be. Yet, Jesus came in order to defeat death so that, by union with Him, His resurrection would lead to our resurrection to a glorified state—a state in which the image of God is repaired within us. Thus, Paul tells the Corinthians,
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).
The promise of glorification is a great promise! It means that one day we will not struggle with desires for sin. God will take them away completely. It means that we will not struggle in a world of sin, for Christ will make a new world that has not been corrupted by sin (Revelation 20:1-8). It means that one day we will not have bodies that fail as the ones we have now. We will have eternal bodies; glorified bodies. That means no hair loss, no diabetes, no cancer, no blindness, no Alzheimer’s, no down syndrome, and no death.
In the Romans eight passage, Paul uses the word “glorified” in the simple past tense. Why would he say it has already happened? Because God has declared it. God is completely faithful. Therefore, when He promises something, it may be stated with such a certainty as if it had already taken place. So, this Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for the assurance of glorification!
Reason #4: The Presence of the Holy Spirit
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, before His arrest, He desired to comfort His disciples in preparation for their impending grief. He consoled them by disclosing His future plan to prepare an eternal home for His followers. While this promise imparted, and still imparts, great consolation, Jesus had more comfort to grant—He promised His Spirit’s eternal presence with His followers.
Notice that the Holy Spirit is given by the Father at the request of the Son. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as another “Helper.” Helper translates the word παράκλητον (paraclēton). In the technical sense, this is a judicial term for an advocate who pleads one’s cause before a judge or an intercessor who intervenes on another’s behalf. The Holy Spirit certainly acts as an advocate or intercessor for the born-again Christian. Paul assures,
the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).
When Christians do not know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us! He guides our will and even when our knowledge is obscure, He guides our way!
Jesus tells us that the Helper will be with His followers forever. In Jesus’ incarnation, He took on a human body, which He retains even to this day at the right hand of the Father. A body may only be in one place at a time. Yet, Jesus promised His presence with His followers forever (Matthew 28:20). How then can He be with us even now? By sending His Spirit to us. He said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). This is the very Spirit that inspired the Scriptures and in, by, and through those Scriptures, He guides us “into all truth” (John 16:13). And this Holy Spirit only abides with those who surrender to Christ. He is our Helper through Christ Jesus! What a comfort and blessing worthy of all praise and thanksgiving that we are never left alone; never left to our own understandings. We have a Helper to advocate for us and guide us!
Reason #5: The Fellowship of the Church
“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
The writer of Hebrews had just reminded his readers of the confidence that Christians have to enter into God’s presence by the blood of Jesus. Then he makes several exhortations based upon that truth. Since Jesus died for us “let us draw near…let us hold fast…let us consider…” It is to this last exhortation that we now turn. Christians are called to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Why? Because the world is full of distractions that want to choke out our service to the Lord (Matthew 13:22). Therefore, we need each other to stimulate us to love and good deeds. The word for stimulate is παροξυσμὸν (paroksusmon) which usually carries a negative connotation of provoking someone to argue or fight. But the writer of Hebrews makes a sharp contrast with this word. Christians are to provoke each other for good not for evil. The word can also mean to irritate. Have we gone so far as to irritate each other to serve God? The life of the Spirit will always irritate the desires of the flesh. Therefore, let’s irritate one another, let’s provoke one another, let’s call one another to serve God through love and good deeds.
But how can we provoke one another to love and good deeds if we never gather? How can we love Jesus if we don’t love His people (cf. John 13:34-35, John 14:15)? How can we love His people if we neglect them? The assembling together of which the writer of Hebrews spoke certainly included the weekly Lord’s Day gathering of the church. This is and has been for nearly 2,000 years, the regular time for the church to meet every week and celebrate the resurrection Jesus. It’s a time for stimulating one another toward love and good deeds. What a blessing Sunday mornings are!
Not only do Christians provoke each other to love and good deeds each Sunday morning, but as we gather we are “encouraging one another.” The word for encourage has a vast range of meaning that covers instructing, encouraging, strengthening, comforting, begging, and admonishing. It would be hard to know exactly which one of these ideas the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he used the word. But one thing is certain, he intended that we would come together and address each other with God’s Word—His commands and His promises.
The writer of Hebrews reveals a truth that makes us ever grateful for fellowship with our brothers and sisters: the Day of the Lord is approaching. The day when Jesus returns to separate His church from the world and to judge the world will come. The fellowship of the church guards us from wandering from Christ and His will, from building with the wrong materials (1 Corinthians 3), from having greater loves than Christ (Mark 12:28-34). The fellowship of the church is one of God’s greatest blessings for which we can be thankful.
Reason #6: Purpose for Living
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3).
Without God’s revelation of Himself and His will through His Word, the Bible, this life would be one full of confusion that could be likened to being cast into the ocean at night time—you wouldn’t know which way was up or which way was down. But instead, the God who created us also has a purpose for us. What is that purpose? Jesus, just before He was arrested, prayed for His disciples—even all His future disciples. He prayed for you and for me. At the beginning of His prayer, He stated the essence of salvation—knowing God and Christ.
Considering the grand narrative of the Bible, you will notice that Adam and Eve were created in fellowship with God. But after they rebelled, they were cut off from fellowship with Him. God made a temporary way for Old Testament Israelites to fellowship with Him through the tabernacle, the temple, and the sacrifices until the time was right for a permanent and better way. Jesus came to bring a permanent reconciliation between man and God (Romans 5:10). Jesus came so that we could live in relationship with God. Jesus came as God among us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus came so that we could have God live within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus returns, He will bring us to the New Jerusalem in which the church will get to live with Jesus forever (Revelation 21:3).
God’s purpose in the Garden of Eden, in the tabernacle, in the Temple, in sending Jesus, in sending the Holy Spirit, in the creating the New Jerusalem is to be in relationship with His people. God loves you and wants a relationship with you. That is your purpose in life. That is something to be thankful for. So then, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Reason #7: The Promise of a New Home
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
This is my favorite passage in the entire Bible because it is full of unceasing hope and joy. When God created mankind in His image, that meant that He created mankind to rule—to rule over His creation as stewards (Genesis 1:26-30). Yet, when mankind rebelled against God, all that was in their care suffered the consequences (cf. Genesis 3:16-19, Romans 8:18-22). Sin entered the world and corrupted it. With sin came relational turmoil, pain, disease, natural disasters, and death.
The majority of the book of Revelation speaks of God’s judgment upon the world that will end with the destruction of the world. But, since Jesus came, that will not be the end. Jesus promised that He would go to prepare an eternal home for His people (John 14:1-6). After His return, Jesus will provide a new heaven and a new earth for His people that will be uncorrupted by sin. There will not be any of the plagues that entered the world because of sin. Jesus will be there physically with His people once again. His bride, the church, will be completely cleansed of sin and will sin no more. Since God is the source of all good, no wrong will ever be done to His people or His new heaven and earth. All sadness and death will be a thing of the distant past.
Yes! We have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. The greatest gifts are those which come from the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ! Do you have that salvation? Do you have those gifts? Jesus has done all that is needed for you to be saved; to be brought into a relationship with God. All that’s left is for you to take hold of that salvation. Paul says,
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation… for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-10, 13).
Thanks be to God!