Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Thankfulness

So Much More Than Manners

Say ‘Thank You!’

As a bratty little boy I had to be constantly reminded to say ‘Thank you’ for things. I was unthankful and presumptuous. My elders were working for my good when they laboured to teach me my manners, and I am very thankful for it.

give thanks

Sadly, my hardness of heart through my youth set some persistent patterns in my life and behaviour. My unwillingness to be thankful as a matter of courtesy continued into adulthood. It’s really only over the past few years that I’ve begun to realize just how connected thanklessness / thankfulness is to my heart’s whole disposition.

Recently, I thought it would be good for me to go back and do a little study on thankfulness in the New Testament. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Not only was the study huge, it was hugely convicting.

I was expecting the apostle Paul to command us to be thankful. I wasn’t expecting the New Testament to model and expect so much about thankfulness. And I wasn’t expecting to see just how clearly thankfulness is so much more than manners; it is bound up with godliness and worship in every area of our lives.

Some Findings

I want to provide you with my compilation of New Testament texts and teaching on thankfulness. I think the best way to use it is to download the PDF, print it, go through the texts one-by-one and make notes on them.

That being said, I know that many of you (a) won’t do that, or, (b) won’t do that without convincing, so I’m going to offer a few highlights here.

Jesus Himself Modelled Thankfulness

And note the things he thanks his Father for. These are things I would complain and be bitter about, but he gives thanks.

ESV Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;

ESV Luke 22:17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. …  19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

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Faith, Justification, Gratitude, and Action

In his excellent teaching on the meaning of faith, J.I. Packer tackles the age-old question of how justification by faith alone results in anything other than spiritual sloth and antinomianism. He writes the following:

ji-packerFaith abandons hope in man’s own accomplishments, leaves all works behind, and comes to Christ alone and empty-handed, to cast itself on mercy. Such is the faith that saves.

But does this mean that saving faith throws a halo over idleness, and that the gospel of justification by faith only is really hostile to moral endeavour? Indeed not. ‘Faith is a lively thing,’ wrote Luther, ‘mighty in working, valiant and strong, ever doing, ever fruitful; so that it is impossible that he who is endued therewith should not work always good works without ceasing … for such is his nature.’

What saves is faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone; it is always ‘working through love (Gal. 5:6), becoming a moral dynamic of unparalleled power in the believer’s life. The proof that a man’s faith is real is precisely this — that it makes him work. How does it do this? By making him feel the constraint of Christ’s love for him, and the greatness of the debt of gratitude which he owes to his God. As we said once before, Christian doctrine is grace, and Christian conduct is gratitude. The believer does not do what he does as a means to being justified, but there are no limits to what he will do for his Lord out of gratitude for the justification that he has received.

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Back from Vacation… And Thankful

Looking at this portrait makes me think Attlee wasn’t the only one with something to be modest about…

It is said that Winston Churchill once quipped of Clement Attlee, ‘He is a modest man, but then, he has so much to be modest about.’ I can’t help but chuckle when I read that. But when I reflect on it, I think that perhaps, this isn’t a bad thing. If indeed you have much to be modest about (and who doesn’t?) why wouldn’t you want to be known as a modest man?

Returning from vacation, I’m a very thankful man. To adapt the Churchill quote, ‘I’m a thankful man, with so much to be thankful about.’

I am thankful for so many things that God has given me and my family. Here are a few that come to mind at the end of my first day back on the job.

I’m thankful for…
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Thankfulness for Everything

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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Recently we moved east. I’ve always been a west-end guy, so this is totally new for me. But I’ve enjoyed getting to know the area. The other night I was out roller-blading on a path near our new home. I stopped at one point by the lake and sat for a while to gaze out over Lake Ontario.

beachAs I looked down the shoreline to the right and to the left, as far as my eye could see, all that I could see was beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. The beauty of God’s creation preserved through the fall and the curse, now available for me to experience right near our new house. And the wonder of it is that I didn’t even know this place was there when we bought the house.

That got me to thinking: Isn’t this just like my whole life?

I’ve never known where to go, what to do, who to meet, or what to look for in any given situation. But God has always led me to ‘green pastures’ despite my ignorance. My life has been and continues to be full of blessing.

That night I thought about my life: my beautiful wife, precious daughters, good health, new home, amazing church, wonderful extended family… the list goes on and on. In every realm of my life, God has richly blessed me. Not because I deserve it. Not for a second. I’ve never felt less worthy than I do right now. But I’m freshly humbled, and thankful.

I’m thankful for my family who always steered me in the right direction; for friends current and past; for the good schools I was able to attend to get an education; for random people who have blessed me by helping me get and keep jobs; for living in Canada; for living in the 20th & 21st centuries; for growing up in a family where I learned the Bible from a young age; the list goes on and on.

When I think about all that I have to be thankful for, I’m amazed that I ever complain about anything. I’m amazed that I would ever be proud about anything. I’m amazed that I’m not more thankful. When I think about all that I have to be thankful for, I realize the truth of the saying, ‘Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.’

When I pause to give thanks for thirty years of God’s abundant kindness to me–first and foremost in the gospel, but then over-flowing to all of my life–I’m reminded that it is good to be thankful. Thankfulness makes less of me, more of God, and more of his goodness to me through the people he has given me in my life.

I pray that after thirty more years (God willing), I’ll be able to look back and see that I’ve grown in my quickness to give thanks. I want to know more and more what the apostle Paul knew: That being filled with the Holy Spirit means living a life that is full of ‘giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Eph 5.18-20).

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