Theme: Living Out Our New Nature
This week’s lessons help us to properly celebrate Thanksgiving by impressing upon us the importance of continually expressing genuine thanks to the Lord for all his blessings.
Scripture: 1 Chronicles 16:8-12
The seventh is rejoice. At the very end of verse ten we read, “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.” How does that differ from glorying? Well, glory has to do with God’s attributes. When you glorify God you magnify his name. You remember who he is, and you praise him for those attributes. You praise him for his wisdom and his holiness and his omniscience and his sovereignty and all of those things. The word rejoice is more concerned with our attitudes, the way we feel and the way we respond.
I think Christian services should always be joyful. Even funeral services ought to have an element of joy for Christians. We sorrow, of course. But as the Bible says, we do so not as others who have no hope. We know where those who die in the Lord have gone. We know we’re going to see them again. We have the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself to build our hope upon, and so even a funeral service should be joyful.
The next two items, number eight and nine, are almost parallel, and they’re both in verse 11: “Look to the Lord in his strength, seek his face always.” The difference is to be found, however, not in the verbs themselves, since look and seek are virtually the same thing. Rather, the difference is in the latter part of the sentence that goes with them, where we are told to “look to the Lord and his strength.” The emphasis is upon God’s strength and that it is from him that our strength comes.
“Seek his face” has coupled with it the word always. What that is saying is that what we are to do is to be done at all times. Always we’re to be conscious that God is there. We’re to be seeking him constantly in all we do. This should be a habit. You say, “Well, how do you develop a habit?” Well the way you develop a habit is by doing the thing repeatedly. You may not have a habit of giving God thanks in any of these ways or seeking his face or glorying or singing or making known or calling or any of those things; but the way to do it is to make it a regular practice. We need to develop regular times of seeking God’s face, which is why we need to develop daily devotions.
Then we come to verse 12, which gives us the tenth. This is probably the most important element of all. It says, “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles and the judgments he pronounced.” If we’re going to give thanks well, above all else we have to remember what God has actually done for us.
You know there are various ways of defining human nature, and what a man or a woman is. Science and philosophy have done it in different ways. Scientists define man as we know him as homo sapiens. It means “thinking man.” Karl Marx, the founder of Communism, defined man by his work. Man is what he does. Sigmund Freud saw the essence of human nature in our sexual desires that are often repressed. Desmond Morris wrote a book called The Naked Ape because he saw man in relation to the animal kingdom. I think the definition that has stuck most in my mind over the years is the definition of one of the ancient philosophers who said, “I’ll tell you what man is. Man is the ungrateful biped.” A biped is a creature who has two feet. That philosopher hit at the essence of something important when he referred to man as an ungrateful biped. Nothing is so characteristic of fallen human nature as the failure to be grateful or thankful to those who have helped us, and most significantly, the failure to be thankful to God, who is the source of all our blessings.
But Christians have a new nature. If ingratitude is most characteristic of our fallen nature, then gratitude is what should be most characteristic of our new nature, the nature we receive from Jesus Christ himself. One of the great characteristics of the new nature is that it remembers God and his goodness and is not reluctant to be thankful to him. So that’s the way I end. I just simply ask the question: Are you thankful? Do you remember? If you’re having trouble thanking God and remembering what he’s done, make a list and write it down. Then when you have your devotions, keep your list before you and go through it item by item and thank God for each one. And if you need a head start, you might even want to try a hymn, such as this one that is always sung around this time of year:
Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
How does rejoicing differ from glorying? How can you rejoice even in the midst of difficult experiences?
What does it mean to seek the Lord’s face always?
What are some ways people have sought to define human nature?
From the study, what should be the most characteristic of our new nature?
Reflection: Read or sing the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God,” and use it to offer up a prayer of thanksgiving.
For Further Study: To learn more about the importance of thanksgiving and why we need to give thanks, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from Psalm 21, “A Day of National Thanksgiving.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)