“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”
We have much for which to be thankful to God. Jesus said that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Paul and Barnabas said that God “did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). The Psalmist wrote, “Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase” (Psalm 85:12). Just last Thursday alone, many of us sat down to tables filled with food. Many were able to make even more food to share with those who had none. We owe all of this to the kindness, generosity and love of our benevolent Creator and Friend.
Yet, we owe him even more gratitude for the best gift he has offered us which is salvation from the just punishment due to us for our sins against him. The Bible says that that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11). It is impossible for us to be saved without God’s grace because none of the good works we do can justify us from the sins we all have committed against God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:23). God’s Son freely chose to sacrifice himself and take our place and punishment in order to appease the wrath of God (1 John 2:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:21). This is no small gift because “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The “wages” of our sin is “death” (Romans 6:23a), the second death of hell (Revelation 21:8)…so we should be very grateful indeed that God has offered us “the free gift” of “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).
As is the case with all gifts which are offered to us, we choose whether to receive the free gift of God’s grace. Joshua and Elijah knew that the choice to follow God is up to us (Joshua 24:15, 22; 1 Kings 18:21). That’s why Paul and his fellow apostles, referring to themselves as Christ’s “ambassadors,” said that God was “making his appeal” to us before writing, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). God would not implore us to be reconciled to him if we did not have the ability to reject and even “insult” his grace through our unrepentant, willful sin (Hebrews 10:26-29).
This is why Paul said that we are saved by God “through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). In the sight of God, faith is far more than an intellectual acknowledgment of the veracity of the Bible or that Jesus is our Savior. Biblically, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). Works of obedience by themselves cannot save us due to the fact that we need God’s grace due to our sin (Ephesians 2:8-9); nonetheless, Jesus is “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). He warned us that not everyone who calls him Lord will enter heaven, but “the one who does the will of my Father” will enter (Matthew 7:21).
Thus, one obeys Jesus because they have faith. It is one’s faith that prompts them to obey his commands to repent of sins and be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30), resulting in one’s sins being washed away and salvation being given to them (Acts 22:16; Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Only then are we spiritually raised to walk in a new life (Romans 6:1-4), a brand new creation brought back into loving fellowship with God by Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)! Once out of the waters of penitent baptism, we are heaven-bound, guaranteed to receive that imperishable, undefiled, unfading, precious inheritance in heaven (1 Peter 1:4)!
Yes, Christians have much for which to be thankful! Have you obeyed the gospel and become a Christian? Are you thankful for all God has given to you?