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Jack Graham - A Grateful Life


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    Jack Graham - A Grateful Life
TOPICS: Songs of Encouragement, Thanksgiving, Gratitude

Turn please in your Bibles to Psalm 107. By now you should know that the Psalms represent the songbook of the Bible. These great poems and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God, praising God for who he is, giving thanks for what he has done. Psalm 107: "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord... Let the redeemed of the Lord... say so!, whom he has redeemed from trouble". And then scroll down to verse 8: "Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things".

And then look at verses 21 and 22, which comprise our primary theme and text for the day, a grateful life: "Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy"! Our worship includes exuberant joyful, voluntary praise to God! We magnify the Lord with our mouths and with songs of praise and adoration. We say so! "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so", and we sing it so as well, as we worship with God. We really need Thanksgiving these days. It's been a tough year in many ways for our nation so deeply divided. "Wars and rumors of wars". The threats of terrorism are everywhere around the world.

I heard about a man who was sitting with his friends and family around their Thanksgiving table and he said, "Well, I don't want to necessarily say it's been a tough year or a trying year, but I will say this is the first time we've had a turkey volunteer"! It's been a tough year. And yet those of us who know and love the Lord Jesus, we sing, we shout with praises and thanksgiving to God. Why? Because gratitude is the mark of the Christian. In Roman's chapter 1 we are told that the mark of an unbeliever is ingratitude. It says, "For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him".

The mark of a believer is thanksgiving and gratitude. We have grateful hearts because of what Christ has done for us. The mark of an unbeliever does not honor God and does not give thanks. We enter into the presence of God with thanksgiving and praise. In the Old Testament there were two kinds of sacrifices: propitiatory sacrifices, meaning sacrifices for salvation, those blood sacrifices, bringing the animals and the blood of animals for the sacrifices, for the redemption of sin, for the covering of sin; propitiation. Those sacrifices of the Old Testament, those bloody sacrifices are finally and fully fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world".

When Christ laid His life down on the cross, He bled and He died. He became the sacrifice for our sin, once and for all, upon the cross. So there is now no longer a need for those kinds of sacrifices, those bloody sacrifices of propitiation. Christ is our Passover. He is our propitiation. But the second kind of sacrifices that we see in the Bible are sacrifices of celebration, celebratory! And the people of Israel would often bring sacrifices to celebrate great events. In particular to celebrate their redemption, whether it be crossing the Red Sea or their trip through the desert to the land of Promise. They would celebrate with these massive festivals.

Much like the American tradition of Thanksgiving, at least in some way in which we celebrate Thanksgiving as a nation. The nation of Israel would celebrate with these feasts and these festivals and they would bring sacrifices offered to God; sacrifices of celebrations, sacrifices of thanksgiving. That's what I want to talk to you about today. These sacrifices. First, why we give sacrifices of thanksgiving. Look again in your Bibles at Psalm 107. Verse one says: "O give thanks to the Lord for He is good"! Because God is God and God is good, and His steadfast love endures forever. That is why we say so, "The redeemed of the Lord say so". He has redeemed us which means He has set us free from the power of sin and death, from the shackles of sin and judgment. We have been redeemed. In His goodness, in His grace He has become our Savior and our God.

When we read verses 8 and 9, it speaks of God satisfying the deepest longings of our soul. I hope you ate till you were full on Thanksgiving. Some of us ate until we were overfull. We have been blessed in so many ways. But this is a picture here of eating until we are satisfied. I am satisfied with Jesus. And He satisfies the longing of the soul, the hungry soul! If you're hungry for God, if you want your soul satisfied, then God and God alone can do that for you! In verse 10 it says that some of us sat in darkness and in the shadow of death and we were prisoners in affliction and in irons. We had rebelled against the words of God.

What a picture of a person outside of Christ, outside of a relationship with God. Sitting and waiting to die. Sitting in the very shadow of death. No, no future before us, shackled by the power of our own addictions! Prisoners in affliction and in the iron of a soul, and rebelling against God! We all have sinned against God and rebelled against a holy God. And yet God has loved us, He has saved us, He has brought us into His family, and now we belong to Him. No wonder we say thank you, Lord, and bring these sacrifices of praise to God!

When you think about what Christ has done for you, you can't help but thank Him. In fact the etymology of the word think and thank are very similar. Think and thank are cousins in the vocabulary. And when you think about what Christ has done for you, when you think of the goodness of God, when you remember and reflect upon it, you cannot help but offer gratitude to God. These sacrifices of thanksgiving. Not just because of the way you feel, but because of what you know! We don't live by our feelings! Because our feelings, our circumstances, these are not always good. And yet 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Scripture says "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning you".

Give thanks in every circumstance. Why? Not because all things are good, but because God is always good! Amen? God is always good! And we are to give this sacrifice of thanksgiving. The writer of Hebrews, chapter 13, speaks of "bringing the sacrifice of praise". I know we don't always feel like singing, we don't always show up with our hearts tuned to worship, but yet when we praise God, we enter into His joy. We enter in with thanksgiving His very presence. And when we lift Him up, we get lifted up! And even when our voices are choked with tears, even when our hearts are breaking, when we worship God, when we give thanks, we sometimes do it with a broken hallelujah. But we do it anyway, not because of the way we feel, but because of what we know!

"God is good and His love, His mercy endures forever"! That's the way to be happy. That's the way to live in fullness of joy. Let me give you a verse; you'll love this one. Psalm 63, verses 3 and 4. "Because your steadfast love is better than life", better than life better than breath, better than anything, "better than life; my lips will praise you. And so will I bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands". Yes, that's there in the Bible. Lifting up holy hands unto the Lord. We praise Him, we give thanks because He is good and we know that His goodness, His love for us is better than life itself! It surpasses the greatest joys of living! It's better than anything! This is why we can give thanks whenever, wherever, whatever; that we can praise God in spite of everything.

Did you know that gratitude is the key to happiness in your life? It's true. The key to happiness is gratitude, and there have been many studies, research done on this subject. Psalm 107, verse 22, if you look at it again, it says: "Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy". Songs of joy are connected with bringing these sacrifices of praise to God. Happiness is in direct proportion to your gratitude. In contrast to that, unhappiness is in direct proportion to your ingratitude. Grateful people are happy people. Ungrateful people are unhappy people.

Hans Selye, the father of the so-called stress study, they actually did studies on the impact of stress on the human body. He concluded that gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. And I would add the happiest of all human emotions. You think about any negative emotion you face, any toxic emotion that you're dealing with, Gratitude, thanksgiving overcomes it and overwhelms it! You want to be happy? Then be grateful. But let me close this message by giving you exactly what it means. How do we bring the sacrifices of thanksgiving? If they're sacrifices, what kind of sacrifices are we to bring? Well the Bible tells us.

First, there's the sacrifice of what I'm going to call surrender. Make an unconditional, complete surrender of your life to Christ. To live under the lordship of Christ. Jesus is Lord, the question is he your Lord, is he your Master? Romans 12:1 and 2, turn to it in your Bibles. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers by the mercies of God". What mercies of God? All the things we already talked about, forgiveness and grace and being set free and forgiveness of sin and all those mercies of God because of what Christ has done for us. "To present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship".

This is our surrender and it is a living sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of thanksgiving when we recognize that we belong to him. We belong to him by creation and we belong to him by the new creation, redemption. We have been made by God and therefore belong to God and we have been remade by God and therefore we belong to him. The Apostle Paul said, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? You are bought with a price". Purchased by the blood of Christ! You're the temple of the Holy Spirit! I heard some guy say after Thanksgiving, he said, "If our bodies are the temple, as much as I ate, I'm not becoming a megachurch"!

So we need to take care of the temple, our bodies, and our souls and our spirits. We bring it all and we say, Lord, it's Yours; it's not mine. Belongs to You, bought and paid for in full by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! And therefore it affects what I do with my body, how I live my life, what I think about, how I give my life. I'm a living sacrifice. The only problem with a living sacrifice is we tend to crawl off the altar. And so I have to keep pulling myself back up on the altar, and say, "Lord, here I am. I surrender all. I give this to You". That's a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Another sacrifice of thanksgiving: Songs of praise. We praise him. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so". We say it, we shout it, and we sing it. That's what the songs are about; what our worship experience when we sing together is all about. And if you're saved, Spirit-filled, you will sing! You say, "Well, I don't sing very well. I would disrupt the whole thing if I tried to sing". The psalmist said, "Make a joyful noise to the Lord"! God hears your song whether it's the song of a sparrow or the song of a nightingale. I've just never understood how people can come to church and stand there with their hands in their pockets when God has done so much for us and God has blessed us in so many ways! How could we help but say it? How can we not sing it? And so it's a sacrifice.

I know there are times I don't feel like singing. Last thing I want to do sometimes is get to church, and I have to be here! I work here. But we don't always feel it. But here's what I've discovered: when I show up, whether I feel like it or not, with my worship, and I sing and I celebrate the goodness of God and the grace of God, my spirit goes from here to way up here! When we lift Him we get lifted up. Happens every time! Bring it! Bring your praise with you. Before you even get here let your praise in church and your worship be an overflow of your heart. Very quickly, first is ourselves or our surrender of self and that's a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Another sacrifice of thanksgiving is when we bring our worship, when we bring our songs of praise to God and then supplication, which is prayer. Philippians 4:6: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything in prayer with (what?) thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God, and the peace of God which passes understanding protect your heart and your mind". It's a sacrifice when we pray. Here's a great verse. You're in Psalm 141 and verse 2. Go over there with me. You'll be glad you did. Psalm 141, verse 2. This is a picture of prayer. It says, "Let my prayer be counted as incense before You and the lifting up of my hand (Oh, there's that again!) the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice".

The psalmist is saying like a priest we offer the incense of prayer in the temple, in the tabernacle of worship. He would light incense. And you know what incense is; it's like perfume, it burns and there's the scent. And so prayer is like burning incense. It is a sweet a beautiful aroma that wafts its way into the very presence of God. Isn't that a beautiful picture of prayer? It's like the burning of incense, an act of worship! And prayer is the lifting of hands as if to receive from the Lord at the evening sacrifice. To praise our God at the end of the day. Remember, thanksgiving is whenever, whatever, wherever! So from morning to evening, 365, 24/7 we are praising our God! And when we pray we are offering a sacrifice to God.

And then finally, our stewardship. Psalm 54 and verse 6, "With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good". What is good? To bring my tithes, my offering, to bring my money, to bring my possessions as an act of sacrifice and thanksgiving sacrifice to the Lord. After all, Thanksgiving is Thanks-GIVING! And for everytime words like "love" and "faith" are used in the Bible, the word "give" or "given" is used 3 to 4 times more, all through the Bible. The very heart of the Bible is, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son".

Gratitude produces generosity. Do you agree? It's true! Gratitude produces generosity with our time, our talents, our treasure, certainly with our money, he's talking here about financial gifts. And when we obey God with a thankful offering, bringin our tithes and gifts ot the Lord it is an act of gratitude. There are multiple motivations for giving. Our love for God, our faith in God to trust him with our finances, our hope, investing in those things that matter and last for eternity. But gratitude is perhaps the greatest motivation of all. Are you grateful? Not only to God but are you grateful for your church? If so, give to the ministry of your church! Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive".

Talk about happiness, the miserly are miserable but the generous are gracious, it's more blessed. "Happy are you," Jesus said, "when you give". And over the years (I'm wrapping up, I'm going to land the plane), over the years I've noticed two kinds of people in life and even in the church. Givers and takers. Which one are you? When did you forget to remember that we are the church? And we don't exist for ourselves we exist for the glory of God and for our neighbors and the nations to come to know the greatness of our God. That's who we are. That's what we are about. We're here to tell the nations and our neighbors. The church doesn't exist for me, it doesn't exist for you. There are ministries to God's people, of course. But we exist for people who are not yet here, we exist for people on the outside so let me challenge you, if you're a taker and not a giver, to get onboard with us.

To stop watching and start worshipping with your tithes and offerings to the Lord. To give generously and proportianatly and systematically and joyfully and voluntarily. Again, that's another thing, nobody should have to twist your arm to motivate you to give if you are a believer. It's important to teach stewardship and I frankly say, it's my bad, I don't teach it enough. I don't teach stewardship enough, I plan on correcting that. But we are here to reach out and invite someone and bring someone. Who are you inviting? Who are you bringing? It's the sacrifice of thanksgiving because God has blessed us to be a blessing. Amen?
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