BECOMING THANKSGIVING PEOPLE — Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on November 24th, 2013.
Thanksgiving has become a somewhat complex holiday in our nation. Initially the Pilgrims who had survived a very difficult year, held a celebration, giving thanks to God for his provision and goodness. Nowadays Thanksgiving is more like a greeting card holiday. Stores use the day to prepare for the beginning of Christmas sales which begin on “Black Friday”, and politicians use the day for their own political purposes.
Thanksgiving isn’t part of the church calendar because it isn’t specifically about the finished work of Jesus. However, there is something very right about taking a day to celebrate giving thanks to God. There is something fundamentally important and foundational in giving thanks. The practice of thanksgiving is central to Christian attitude and behavior and is a means by which a right understanding of ourselves and God is set up in our hearts.
So this morning, we are going to look at Palm 100 as a comprehensive call not just to be thankful on a particular day – but as a way to be called out of the world and to live before God as his thankful, praising people.
We Have Been Called Out of the World to Be Thanksgiving People.
To Joyfully Be Part of What God is Doing! “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.” My first response in looking at this command was – “Do I have to shout?”. Shouting is not something most of us do in worship. For some of us, the idea of shouting in church is against our stayed sensibilities. And, in fact, the idea of enforced shouting, is not what the Psalmist is talking about.
There is a recognition here that the Psalmist has of being part of something big – larger than his life – something that has profound meaning and importance – and that is glorious. He begins his Psalm as though he were giving a command – that we should wake up and recognize what is happening – who we are and whom we serve – that we have been called out of the world by the Lord of all the earth and that we are caught up in what he is doing.
The people of God are not just saved souls – at whom God in his wrath is no longer looking – who have escaped punishment. The picture is completely different. The children of God are part of this joyful plan in which God, through Christ, and through the body of Christ – the church – is remaking, redeeming and healing the earth – bringing all things back under his reign.
To the extent that we recognize and believe that we have been called out of the world and into the plan of the Lord of all the earth, we can no longer worship in a bored manner, but the Psalmist expects shouts of joy to be ripped out of our chests
To Be Servant-Worshippers! “Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before Him with joyful singing.” And so how are we to be part of this plan? The Psalmist spells out a two part program.
First, we have been called out of the world to be and become, increasingly, the servants of God – not in a professional sense, but in the sense that we can be in our relationships, and in our vocations and in situations, Christ-Like. And through this service, which often seems small and insignificant to us – we are being caught up into the plan and the work of God’s Kingdom on earth.
But then, Secondly, connected to this thought is the idea of worship as a way of serving the Lord. We tend to think of serving the Lord as service apart from worship. Soup kitchens – witnessing – missions – being part of church programs – but we often do not take worship seriously enough. Worship is the sign of the restoration of the earth to the reign of God. Worship is also part of that great work which God, through Jesus Christ, is doing. We who worship God have been called out of the world to be his people – the bride of Christ. When we worship we are a sign/ a picture of God’s rule – God’s influence in this world. When we worship, the things we say and sing about God are the real and true message that offers life to the world. When we worship, the true God who is the ruler of all creation, is among us and he is reigning as king among us – and the fear, distrust, hatred of man towards God is undone among us.
To Take Our Place as God’s People! “Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” We have been called out of the world to acknowledge and affirm this: That we do not belong to ourselves! That we did not make ourselves! This is the acknowledgment – the sign – the confession of worship: that we have a maker who is Almighty God, who made us for his glory.
The world chooses not to know this. The world chooses not to give thanks. The world chooses to live, speak and act as though they had made themselves and do not owe anything to anyone but themselves. But the church is the community of Jesus who do not belong to ourselves. We have been called out of the world and into the presence of God who is the king of all. Our worship and our thankfulness to God and our confession that God is our maker and that we owe our lives to him in reverence and humility, is a sign – a light and witness to the world. We are those who know God, not by virtue of our greater intelligence or insight, but simply by our acknowledgement that he is God, our maker and our king.
Therefore, in The Sabbath Rest of God, Enter into His Presence.
Enter: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” It seems clear that the Psalmist is asking something of us here. He is asking us to enter the presence of God – in a particular way – with thankful hearts and full of praise. And we have seen that this is the great calling of God – to be worshippers – which is why God has called us out of a world that is willing to worship almost anything else – and which is for us a gracious practice that sets our hearts right. We are being called to enter into this worship – this great work being worked out in our lives as believers – this sign to the world of the presence and power of God.
But how must we enter into the presence of God? How does one “Enter his gates”? We may understand all of this and yet not truly enter into the presence of God. Entering God’s presence is not a matter of being intentional enough or good enough, or of serving enough or being effective enough for God.
We enter into the presence of God through Jesus Christ. We enter into God’s presence because, through Jesus and his dying for our sins, and his resurrection – we are welcomed to enter into the presence of God.
Remain in Him Through His Sabbath Rest: And yet, having entered, many of us have found that we wander. We have come to God through Jesus, the door, the way, yet we may still find that we struggle to enter into God’s presence with thanksgiving or praise in our hearts. And so the question becomes, how do we remain – or abide – or dwell – or live in the presence of God – which is our desire to do, and yet which we often find difficult?
Having entered into “His gates” – the only way in which we can remain in the presence of God is through the Sabbath rest of Jesus. Sabbath rest means we have been called into God’s presence first and foremost to rest: from our attempts to do enough for God (the works of the Law), from our attempts to be enough for God (our own righteousness). We cannot do for ourselves. We cannot shout with joy for ourselves because we have no joy in ourselves – we cannot acknowledge God as King and Maker so that we love him – by ourselves. We cannot serve him and do not want to serve him or worship him – by ourselves. We can never be made into those who love God and his presence and his service and his worship – not until we come to/ and remain in Jesus and find rest – that rest in which our sins are forgiven and we know that God loves us and we trust him and live in his favor.
And this is a rest which we as believers all too easily wander away from – and to which we must return again and again. Sabbath Rest must be the motivating center of all of our doing – and where it is not, our doing will feel like enslavement and will be burdensome and our souls will revolt against it.
Bless His Name! “Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” Many people use the words “Lord” and “Savior”, without really meaning them. We can often use these words because they are familiar label words for God – and not because we have found or remained in sabbath rest. But If we are going to bless God’s name – to take up the call of this Psalm, then let us learn to give thanks and be thanksgiving people and enter God’s gates through the sabbath rest of Jesus.