November 21, 2012
A Word From God On Thanksgiving, For Thanksgiving
By Anthony Wade
A look at the process for living under the power of the Holy Spirit, rooted in thanksgiving.
So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. - Ephesians 5: 15-20 (NLT)
In the fifth chapter of Paul's letter to the Church at Ephesus we find a small section subtitled, "Living by the Spirit's Power." If there is anything that would enhance our lives, empower our walk with God, and strengthen our faith to do the work of God it would be learning to live according to the Spirit's power that resides within us. That small section of Scripture is found above and are our key verses for today. Five verses for us to consider this Thanksgiving Day. More importantly, five verses for us to carry beyond Thanksgiving Day to invigorate our lives. Five verses from God to us today.
The first point we see is God imploring us to be careful how we live. The dictionary defines careful as performing with accuracy and caution. The sad truth is that too often we can be quite careless or carefree with our own lives. When we are careless with our lives we are not being accurate in how we live, knowing already how God has outlined our lives to be. When we are carefree with our lives we are not being cautious in how we live. Careless is a matter of disobedience where carefree is more a case of being sloppy. When King David sees Bathsheba, is told she is married to one of his soldiers and he decides anyway to commit adultery he was being careless with his life. The rich fool who decides to build bigger barns instead of consulting God was living a carefree life. When God charged Joshua with taking over for Moses, here was His instruction to him:
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. - Joshua 1: 7 (NLT)
Be careful to obey all of the instructions from the Lord. Do not deviate to the left or the right. Too often we adhere to what we find easy and bend the rest of the Word to our will, deviating to the left or right to suit our sin pre-dispositions. The problem sometimes is that we have been conditioned to view the instructions of God in a negative light; as a series of rules we better not break. The reality is that God gives us these instructions for our own good because deviating to the right or the left carries consequences in our lives. David for example lost his kingdom and two children because of his adultery. When we deviate from what God intends for our lives we diminish the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Remember, the Bible often describes the battle we are in as being spiritual in nature. When we deviate from God; when we are careless or carefree in our walks, we are lending power to the evil powers and authorities of this world. Specifically, God outlines the difference for us in the key verses. To live with caution and is to live wisely and to live our faith sloppily is to live like a fool. This language is often repeated throughout the Bible:
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. - Proverbs 28: 26 (ESV)
This short proverb really breaks it down for us. God has already told us how to manage every facet of our lives. When we are wise, we obey. When we start to lean to our own logic or the world's understanding we are indeed being a fool. We are indeed being careless and carefree.
God continues for us in the key verses by explaining the process for being wise or foolish. The fool acts thoughtlessly but the wise understands what the Lord wants him to do. What does this mean for us today? It means we are supposed to think before we act. Specifically, we are supposed to think about what the Lord wants before we act. A seventeen year old Joseph was being seduced by the wife of his master, Potiphar, but Joseph was not thoughtless and reflected to God:
But Joseph refused. "Look," he told her, "my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God." - Genesis 39: 8-9 (NLT)
You can hear Joseph thinking this out. How could I do such a wicked thing! Too bad David did not reflect thoughtfully before he sent for Bathsheba. If we could just thoughtfully reflect to God on everything we face in this life we would find ourselves walking in the Spirit's power more and more. In fact, next in the key verses we see God drawing a clear line between living as the world does - drunk with wine, and living by the Spirit of God. God spells out in no uncertain terms that we will ruin our lives if we live by the world's standards. If someone was to get drunk on wine once does that mean their life will be ruined? Probably not. The point is when we immerse ourselves in worldliness we are on a path to destruction. We see it all the time in the church. People who are straddling the fence between the world and the Body of Christ. I remember when I was first saved I rode that fence for six months before the Holy Spirit conviction was too great and I had to make a decision about who I was living for. Does this mean that we are perfect and never defer to the world? Of course not because we are inextricably human. We reside in the world, are trapped in the flesh and are at war with an enemy. The more we manage to live according to the Spirit of God and not by the ways of this world, the stronger our Spirit grows within us. The stronger our walk becomes and the stronger our faith is.
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. - Romans 12: 2 (NLT)
So often we cannot seem to find the will of God in our lives because we are messing around too much in this world. In the key verses God goes up another level by revealing the problem with people in this condition. If we want to be filled with the Spirit and devoid of the things of this world it is reliant upon our sincerity. Notice that in the key verses God is saying it is not enough to praise God with our lips but that the songs of thanksgiving must be sung in our hearts as well. I think that we have too many Sunday morning Christians. You cannot get close to God for only a couple hours on Sunday and think you are going to walk under the power of the Holy Spirit the rest of the week. More often than not our moments of attack and weakness will come during the week when we have to deal with our lives in this world. Our lips and our hearts must be closely aligned with God:
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.'" - Matthew 15: 7-9 (NLT)
Their worship is a farce! The more we see the secularization of the church the more we see man-made ideas being pawned off as Godly. People are often seeking an emotional experience not a Spiritual one. Church can too easily become a show where we like to be seen. But there is no audience when we need the power of the Spirit to rise up within us when we catch a glimpse of the Bathsheba's of the world. When we need to be thoughtful about God and what He has said we are and are not to do. When we need to live by the Spirit's power.
The key verses conclude with the secret to all of these points. The linchpin that holds them all together is thanskgiving. Not thanksgiving as the country considers it, once per year sitting around a bounty of food. Thanksgiving for a Christian is not a holiday - it is guideline for everything in life. The key verses say we are to give thanks for everything to God. Not just when we say grace. Not just when the answer to our prayers is "yes." In everything! In the doctor's office. In the unemployment line. In the deep deep valley. A thankful person combats all of the trappings we have discussed in this devotional. A truly thankful heart is infinitely more concerned with what is done before God than what is said before God. A truly thankful heart seeks the Lord in their lives more than the world because they never forget how God has saved them from this world. A truly thankful heart is thoughtful towards the things of God, living a life that is accurate to the Word of God and cautious about their walk. Perfection? Never but a definite striving towards it as opposed to an erosion away from it. The secret is in not taking for granted everything God has already done for us.
So as we sit down this thanksgiving let us reflect for the goodness of God in our lives. Of course I am thankful for my family and friends. For my boss and my job. For everything God has provided for me. But beyond that beloved we need to be thankful for who God is in our lives. For saving our sin-sick souls and writing our names in the Lamb's Book of Life. For sitting us in heavenly realms and preparing works for us to do from the foundations of this earth. For indwelling His Holy Spirit inside of us and giving us the blueprint for how to walk under that awesome power that is at work within us all.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Reverend Anthony Wade - November 21, 2012
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.