THANKFUL FOR JESUS
We are constantly tempted to think of life with God in terms of a deal instead of in terms of relationship. “God, if I’m a good person, if I do good things and treat people well and show up to church most weeks, if I keep my end of the bargain, then you owe me. You owe me answered prayers, good health, the job I want, respectable kids, comfort, security, a ticket to heaven when I die, and whatever else it is I’m looking for from you. That’s the deal.”
Few things are more dangerous for us than beginning to think of our lives with God this way. When we reduce our relationship with God in Christ to a deal, we don’t really need Christ anymore. We might keep giving lip service to him, living religious, moral lives that look very good on the outside, but he’s no longer Savior, and he’s no longer King. Because when life with God is a deal, I keep up my end and you, God, have to keep up your end. So we don’t need a Savior and we don’t need a King; we have ourselves to be our own Savior and King.
In her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor says of one of her characters that “there was a deep, black, wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.” That statement might puzzle us at first, because we tend to think that only those who have embraced sin are trying to avoid Jesus, not those working to avoid sin. But it’s all too possible for us to avoid Jesus as Savior by trying to be good enough so we don’t need a Savior. It’s all too possible for us to reject Jesus as King because deep down we believe we can be our own King.
Believing that God is somehow obligated to us, to save us or bless or help us because we have worked so hard to be so good, is to rebel against him just as surely as running away from him is. We might have turned Jesus into our helper, our example, or our inspiration, but if we haven’t turned to him as our Savior and King, if we haven’t thrown ourselves upon him for his mercy and grace, we are using God for our own ends, not worshipping him. We are relying on our so-called goodness to make us happy and fulfilled instead of God himself.
This is one of the reasons expressing thanksgiving to God is so important. The Bible is full of commands to give thanks to God, not because God has low self-esteem or a big ego and needs us to constantly massage it, but because being thankful to God compels us to remember who he is and what he has done for us. It reinforces his goodness, his grace, his salvation, and his love. It makes sure that we keep God in his place and remember ours before him. Giving thanks also helps us express our love to him, our worship, our dependence, and our gratitude, so we don’t reduce our relationship with him to something that we deserve or earn.
We especially need to be thankful for Jesus: for Jesus coming to this earth as a human being, for Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sin, for our Father rescuing his only begotten Son from death and placing him at his right hand, exalting him above the universe, and making him King. Because when we believe in Jesus, when we accept him as our Savior and King, everything God did for him he does for us, his blessings are now our blessings. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
- Psalm 118:1–4 — “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Oh let Israel say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ Oh let the house of Aaron say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ Oh let those who fear the LORD say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.’”
- Colossians 3:16 — “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16–19 — “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.”