“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…” (Rom. 1:21-22).
The center of our American problem is ingratitude. We are a nation that has been exceedingly blessed by the God of Heaven, and while there have been many who returned thanks for His gifts, we have progressively refused to be thankful. It’s a glorious testimony to the Christian founding of our nation, that we celebrate Thanksgiving every year. But it also stands as a memorial, both reminding us of what we ought to do but in many ways testifying against us for what we refuse to do.
The results of our ingratitude are all around us. The warning of Romans 1 is that those who refuse to glorify God as God will become vain in their imaginations, their foolish hearts will be darkened, and professing themselves to be wise, will become utter fools. And if you keep reading, the Bible says that this leads to serving the creation rather than the Creator and that leads directly to sexual rebellion and insanity. Why do we have PRIDE parades in our streets? Why are the Drag Queens in our libraries? Why are children being targeted with chemical castration and mastectomies? The Bible says that the root cause is our ingratitude, our refusal to give God thanks.
Gratitude for the Bible
But we need to press this into the corners. It is not merely a generic acknowledgement of God, a generic thanks for the things we think are good – although that is a very good start (we should encourage this bare minimum wherever we can). But the will of God in Christ Jesus is that we would give thanks for all things (1 Thess. 5:18). When a people are in the process of replacing the Creator with parts of creation, it doesn’t usually happen all at once. There is usually a long period of syncretism, mixing idolatry with true religion, acknowledging the God of Heaven in some respects, while serving the gods of Mammon, scientism, and sex. We see tons of this to varying degrees inside and outside the church. Outside the church, this is the generic God-bless-America civil religion that pays homage to “God” but doesn’t know this God and in all other respects is wise in its own eyes, doing whatever seems right and good to themselves, without actually seeking God’s wisdom in His Word. Inside the church, we have people paying lip service to Christ and the Bible, but they have begun to serve their feelings, their experiences, and whatever the latest pseudoscientific studies say. The Bible is not God’s authoritative Word. It is merely a collection of wise thoughts and inspiring stories. But this is a refusal to acknowledge God as God, and a refusal to give thanks for one of His central gifts: His Word in the Bible. If you are grateful to the living God, then at the top of your list must be His Word. He is not a distant god. As Francis Shaffer said decades ago, He is there and He is not silent. If you are thankful, feast on His Word.
Gratitude for Genesis 1
This gratitude is not only for the Word of God in general, the whole Bible, it is for the details of God’s Word. In the name of being respectable, in the name of pseudoscience, Christians have cowered before the high priests of modern paganism and denied what the Bible clearly teaches about the origins of this universe. Darwinism and all its ugly offspring are attempts (even if unintentional) to separate God from His creation, to create distance, and in so doing, diminish the praise and thanksgiving. If God merely set off a “Big Bang,” if God vaguely orchestrated natural processes over billions of years, then our gratitude for creation is reduced. “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Ps. 100:3-4). How do we enter into God’s gates with the kind of thanksgiving that God loves? How do we properly bless His name? When we acknowledge that the Lord is God and He made us, not we ourselves, and not natural processes over millions of years. The gratitude that we need as a nation is gratitude for God’s immediate creation of all things in six days, and all very good.
Gratitude for Children
One last item for today: we must repent of our ingratitude for the gift of children and the grace of raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Some of you are aware of the recent hubbub surrounding the viral clip of Mrs. Nancy Wilson describing a moment of discipline from some 40 years ago, teaching her daughter Rachel to be joyful when her mother picked her up from a friend’s house. You can find out more here and here. The venomous reaction to that clip has revealed quite clearly the state of our hearts as a nation. We not only murder our children by the millions in abortion, but with blood all over our hands and faces, we arrogantly claim that we know how to best raise children. Professing ourselves to be wise, we have become utter fools. Our families are more fractured and seething with bitterness and resentment and violence than ever, and we have the audacity to scream at a faithful mother in Israel whose children and grandchildren are thriving.
Have some Christians mistreated their children? Yes. Have some Christians defended their angry outbursts and violence with Bible verses? Yes, they have. But the disobedience of some does not justify the disobedience of all. Have any psychotherapists ever abused their positions of authority? Have any psychiatrists or psychologists ever given poor advice? Heh. The questions answer themselves. Real reformation will begin when the Church clearly teaches that children are an inestimable blessing from the Lord that Christians families should be grateful to welcome, and that when we have received them, we teach them, train them, discipline them, and raise them in the love of Christ, which includes gracious, judicious corporal punishment. And all of this is a glorious grace. Are you grateful for that? Are you grateful for the tools God has given to train the hearts of little children, to show them true love, and save their souls from death? Calling spanking “violence” or “abuse” or “rape culture” is a supreme act of ingratitude and only adds to the darkness and folly in our hearts.
Gratitude for Christ Crucified
Of course at the center of our need is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. God sent His only Son and laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Is. 53). Jesus was struck for guilty sinners. Jesus was struck with the wrath of God, and by His stripes we are healed. A bunch of moderns have wildly distorted views of love, full of sentimentality and arrogance. But the Bible says that in the Cross love was displayed: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). We don’t know what love is. And just to head off one accusation: we completely repudiate the accusation that this view of the atonement leads to child abuse. On the contrary, if anything, it’s the repudiation of this view that leads to child abuse. The human race has a guilt problem, and our guilt cries out for justice. It eats at us, and if there is no sacrifice for our sins, that guilt will rage inside us, and eventually it will lash out at innocent victims, including children. If the Cross is reduced to a pure example of love, and the propitiation for our sins is ignored or rejected, you will have generations of Christians weighed down by their guilt, despairing and angry. Only blood can take away our guilt because the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). But all who look to Christ murdered on a tree and see Him as the Lamb of God, the sacrifice for their sins — they have all their sins washed away.
And those who know their sins are cleansed are a deeply grateful people: Grateful for that Cross, grateful for the Bible, grateful for all of creation, and grateful for the gift of children and the grace of raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is the gratitude we need this Thanksgiving.