Revive Our Hearts Radio

Abounding in Gratitude

Leslie Basham: The gospels tell us about ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. Nancy Leigh DeMoss focuses on the only one who said, “Thank you.”

 Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Who’s the one who got the closest to Jesus? Who’s the only one who got close to Jesus? It’s the one who was grateful. When you and I express gratitude to Jesus, that’s when we get closer to Him than we ever have been able to be before.

Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author of Choosing Gratitude.

 There are hundreds of things to be thankful for all around you. Nancy Leigh DeMoss will help you recognize them and show you why being thankful will have a huge effect on your life. She’s beginning a series called, The Attitude of Gratitude.

Nancy: I remember some time ago calling a dear elderly friend of mine on his 89th birthday. He said something on that phone call that really struck a chord with me. He said, “When I’m gone, if I’m remembered for anything, I want it to be that I was a grateful man.”

Now, this man is a grateful man, but he has a lot of things in his life that could have caused some people not be grateful.

This man lost his mother when he was three years old. He lost his dad when he was still a young man, and years ago his oldest child was killed in a tragic car accident.

So now here he is in the sunset years of his life, with his health failing, and much less physical strength than he had at one time, living in a nursing home, but he’s determined that he wants to be a grateful man.

He’s a man who’s quick to verbalize the goodness and the blessings of God as he looks back over his life. You don’t hear this man complaining. You hear him expressing gratitude. I thought as I listened to my friend, Dad Johnson, “That’s the kind of person I want to be. I want to be known as a grateful person.”

So as we start on this new theme of gratitude, which I think is one of the most important subjects in all of God’s Word, what is gratitude? When we go back to the Greek language, the original language in which the New Testament was written, we find that there is a similar root word for several words that we read in English. The same root word is used for the words: thanks, thanksgiving, gratitude, gift, and grace. All of those words come from a very similar Greek word, and they’re all connected: gift and grace and gratitude and thanks.

Let’s think about some of those words.

When we think about the word grace, it suggests something that is a gift given to people who don’t deserve that gift. It’s a gift bestowed on undeserving people. That’s God’s grace. He gives us what we don’t deserve.

Gratitude has to do with my response to God’s grace, my response to His gifts. It’s that feeling of appreciation and thankfulness that I have when I think about what God has given me.

It’s interesting that they’re both two very similar words in the original Greek language in which the New Testament was written. God’s gifts to us, His grace to us, and our gratitude back to Him all are closely related.

Both grace and gratitude are freely given. They’re not something that you can manufacture or work up. They have to be freely given.

Gratitude is really recognizing and expressing appreciation for the benefits that I’ve received from God and from others. Let me say that definition again, and I’ll tell you, it’s not original with me. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but it has helped me a lot as I think about what it means to have an attitude of gratitude. It’s recognizing and expressing appreciation for the benefits that I’ve received from God and from others; learning to have an eye to see the grace that’s come into my life; recognizing those benefits—benefits I’ve received from God and benefits I’ve received from others.

But not only recognizing those benefits, also expressing appreciation for them, communicating gratitude.

As I think about the gospel, which is really the whole story of the Bible, three words come to mind that really, I think, summarize the gospel. They all start with “G.” I want us to remember these words for a long, long time after this series is over.

The first word is the word guilt. We stand before God; we are born into this world as guilty sinners deserving the wrath and the judgment of God for He is a holy God, and He has to judge sin. So we are guilty. That’s where our story starts. We are sinners who are born to sinners. Our guilt has separated us from a holy God. That’s the first word of the gospel: guilt.

Then there’s the word grace—the grace of God, where He steps down from heaven and bridges the gap between Himself, a holy God, and us as fallen, desperate, hopeless sinners. The Scripture says, “When we were yet His enemies, He sought us out” (Romans 5:8, paraphrased). We never sought after God. Left to ourselves, we would have never chosen God. He chose use. He sent Jesus Christ to be His solution for our sin, to pay the penalty for our guilt. That’s all grace.

“By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, KJV). Grace—a gift for guilty sinners.

So the gospel is my guilt and God’s grace, God’s gracious gift of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for my sin.

But there’s another word that makes up the gospel and that’s the word gratitude—guilt, grace, and gratitude.

Our natural response when we realize what God has done for us, how undeserving we were and are and how gracious He’s been to us and all that He’s poured out upon us in Jesus Christ, not only in giving us salvation but in giving us sanctification and the promise of ultimate glorification. All of God’s gifts should make our hearts well up with gratitude.

Guilt, grace, and gratitude—that’s the gospel. That’s the story of the gospel.

When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we recognize these three elements: guilt, grace, and gratitude. In fact, in some of our liturgical traditions, they use the word Eucharist when they talk about the Lord’s Supper or communion. That word Eucharist is very similar to the Greek word I was telling you that is the word for gift and grace and gratitude.

The Eucharist is a celebration, a communion supper where we celebrate together the fact that God poured out His grace upon our guilt; that Jesus gave His body and His blood for our redemption; that He purchased forgiveness for our sins when He went to Calvary to die for us. So we celebrate the death of the Lord, the gift of His grace, and we give thanks.

Remember when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper in the Upper Room with His disciples? The Scripture says He took the bread in His hands, and He gave thanks (see Luke 22:17-20). So as we take the Lord’s Supper, as we look back on Calvary, look back on the cross and what He has done for us, we give thanks—guilt, grace, and gratitude.

Now as you think about those three words, you realize that our guilt before God was absolutely overwhelming and abounding and yet how much grace has God given us for that abounding guilt.

We read in Romans chapter 5, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (verse 20, KJV).

So for abounding guilt, God gives us super abounding grace.

So how much gratitude should we have toward God? Super, super abounding gratitude? Abounding guilt, super abounding grace, and should not our gratitude be as great as the grace that God has shown to us?

God has given us grace greater than all our sin, grace sufficient to cover all our guilt. Our gratitude should be as great as the grace we have received.

I think that’s why Paul says to the Colossians in Colossians chapter 2, “Be abounding in thankfulness”—be abounding in gratitude (verse 7, paraphrased).

The word is the word overflowing. It’s a word picture here of a river that’s overflowing its banks in flood season. You just can’t contain the flood waters. That’s how great our gratitude should be.

In fact, I think of that passage in Psalm chapter 36 where the Scripture says,

Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens [towering mercy, the loving kindness, the faithfulness of God, reaching as high as the heaven. O God]. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds [greater far than we could ever image, abounding faithfulness]. Your righteousness is like the great tall mountains; Your judgments are a great, deep [unfathomable greatness of God]. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! The children of men . . . are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures (verses 5-8, NKJV).

You see the abounding grace of God, the fullness of God’s mercy, and His love and His kindness toward us?

So Paul says, “Take a measure of how great was your guilt, and then measure how great is God’s grace, His mercy, His kindness, His forgiveness, His faithfulness.”

Whatever you’ve done in the past, however far you were from God, however great an enemy you were against God, He’s forgiven. He’s wiped the record clean. He’s given you a new life, a new start, a clean heart. It’s abounding grace, and Paul says, “Take a look at God’s grace and see to it that you abound in gratitude.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back with the second half of today’s program. She’s been showing us why gratitude is so important. I hope you’ll dig deeper on that topic by reading Nancy’s new book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. Chapter 2 is called “Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude.” It will help you understand and apply the powerful concepts we just heard. Read this book, exhibit a new sense of gratitude, and show those around you the power of the gospel.

We’ll send you the new hard cover edition of Choosing Gratitude when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Take advantage of this opportunity at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

Now, let’s get back to Nancy’s teaching.

Nancy: In 1860 a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan, as ships often have done over the years. This particular one went down near Evanston, Illinois, and there was a life-saving crew that was based at Northwestern College there in Evanston.

One of the young men on that team was a ministerial student at the University. His name was Edward Spencer. He waded into the freezing cold waters of Lake Michigan again and again and rescued 17 people from those waters, people who had been on that boat.

In the process his health was permanently damaged, and he was not able to enter into the ministry as he had planned. Some years later at his funeral, someone pointed out that not one of those 17 passengers that he had rescued had ever come back to say, “Thank you.”

He risked his life, but no one came back and said, “Thank you.”

Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today.

We’re talking about the attitude of gratitude and how important it is that we express gratitude for the benefits and the blessings we have received from God and from others.

I want us to look today at a passage of Scripture that will be familiar to most of you. It’s found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 17. It’s a story of the ten lepers who came to Jesus for healing.

Let’s begin reading in verse 11:

Now it happened as [Jesus] went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off (verses 11-12, NKJV).

Now the Scripture says that these men were lepers and they stood afar off. We know that they had to stand afar off because they were ceremonially defiled. According to the Old Testament law, they had to live outside the village, and they could not have normal relations and communication with non-lepers. So they were separated by their leprosy.

In the Scripture leprosy is a picture of sin. This doesn’t mean that these men had sinned more than other people because they had leprosy, but leprosy, a contagious disease, destroys a person and their immune system and their limbs, and ultimately, is deadly. It’s a picture of what sin does to us, a picture of our guilt before a holy God.

The picture here is that these men were separated from normal people, from others—separated from Jesus, separated from others in their town, separated from their families because of their leprosy.

The Scripture says that when we were in our sin, we could not approach close to God; we could not come near to Him. We were separated from Him, and that was an infinite gap between us and God because of our guilt (see Romans 3:23).

Verse 13 says these ten lepers lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Apparently they knew that Jesus had supernatural power, and that He had grace available to meet them at their point of need. That’s what God’s grace is—His resources, His riches applied to our need. They had a need—that was their leprosy. They knew Jesus was God and had grace to meet their need. So they cried out to Him for grace, and sure enough Jesus extended grace to them.

Verse 14: “When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’”

That’s a reference to the Old Testament law that these lepers would have known well—that is, when a leper was healed, though it never happened, the law said if he ever was healed, he should go to the priest who would pronounce him clean. And the Scripture says, “As they went, they were cleansed.”

So they did what Jesus said. They obeyed; they went to the priest. There was some level of faith here to believe that something would happen as they went, and as they did, they received grace. They were cleansed. They were healed.

Now this was a miracle. Leprosy is an incurable disease. They had never known a leper who had been healed. They had never heard of a leper, except for a couple of incidences in the Old Testament that were miraculous, divine interventions, there was little record of lepers ever having been healed, but they experienced the grace of God as they went on their way.

Then verse 15 tells us,

One of [the ten], when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at [Jesus’] feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

Now there were ten lepers who were healed; ten men who were enjoying their new-found health; ten men who’d experienced the miraculous grace of God beyond their wildest hopes and dreams. I guarantee you these men were not being quiet about this. I guarantee you that as they were healed, not only were they going to the priests, but they were going to their family, and the people they had been estranged from for all these years. They were telling everyone.

Nine of them forgot to say something to the One who was the source of their blessing. Only one stopped to consider the Source of the blessing, the Giver. Only one stopped to thank and worship the One who had given him back his life.

As I see this one coming back to Jesus, it’s a beautiful picture to me of overflowing, abounding gratitude. You sense this man had no inhibition. It says, “With a loud voice he glorified God.” He fell down on his face at Jesus’ feet.

It’s interesting that these ten lepers had all lifted up their voices when they were in distress and need. They had all cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They all cried out when they were desperate, when they were needy, but only one came and cried out and lifted up his voice when he’d received that grace. Only one showed gratitude, and when he showed gratitude, it was abounding gratitude. He lifted up his voice. He recognized the source of his healing. He recognized his debt, and this is a spontaneous, natural outburst of praise.

This was not a private little, “Thank You, Jesus, for what You did for me.” This gratitude was public. It was loud, and I’m so glad that word was in there because it gives us a picture of the kind of gratitude we ought to have to the Lord Jesus for the grace He has poured out on us as guilty sinners.

I would ask you: Is your giving of thanks as obvious and as expressive as your sharing of needs? We tell others what we need. We tell the Lord what we need. We cry out to Him.

I was up at 10:30 last night—I was up much later than than, but at 10:30 last night I was crying out to the Lord saying, “Lord, I cannot pull this session together. This is not making sense to me. It’s not falling together. Please help me.”

The question is: When we’re done today, will I be as quick to go back to Him and express thanks as earnestly as I was crying out to Him for His grace?

Are you as expressive in communicating your gratitude as you are in communicating your needs?

“He fell down on his face at the feet of Jesus, giving Him thanks.”

This is a picture of worship and humility. I like the contrast here because we read in the beginning of this passage, these ten men, when they were still lepers, "stood afar off," but now, having been healed, having been the recipient of the grace of Christ, he came near to Jesus. He fell on his face right at His feet.

Who’s the one who got the closest to Jesus? Who’s the only one who got close to Jesus? It’s the one who was grateful. It’s the one who expressed his gratitude.

I think the others must have felt it, but they didn’t express it. They didn’t come back to say it. When you and I express gratitude to Jesus, that’s when we get closer to Him than we ever have been able to be before.

It’s interesting that the Scripture gives us that little phrase, “He was a Samaritan.” Apparently the others were Jews. Isn’t it interesting that often those who’ve been the most exposed to the truth of God are the least likely to come back and say, “Thank you”?

I’ve never known anything but the grace of God in my life. I was saved at the age of four. I grew up in a home where I was always hearing the ways and the Word of God. I’ve always known about the grace of God, and I find that sometimes people who didn’t grow up in that kind of environment and came to know the grace of God later in life are a whole lot quicker to express gratitude because they don’t take God’s grace for granted. They remember what it was like not to have the grace of God.

Sometimes you see these new believers, and they’re so excited about their faith, and they’re so expressive about their gratitude to the Lord. Sometimes we who’ve been around too long kind of want to tone them down, like, “They’ll get over it.” Well, they will if they sit next to us in church.

They’re so grateful, and they don’t care who hears them or what people think about them when they’re expressing gratitude to the Lord Jesus with a loud voice. They don’t know any better in church than to sing when it’s time to sing songs of praise. Some of us just sit there or stand there and mumble the words, but sometimes those who’ve had the least are the quickest to express gratitude and thanks. So, verse 17,

Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there any found to return to give glory to God except this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well” (verses 17-19, NKJV).

Literally, the translation there is “your faith has saved you.” The other men got physical healing, but this man got physical and spiritual healing—physical healing and spiritual salvation—because I believe he was placing his faith in Christ, recognizing that Christ was God and was the Savior.

Jesus expressed amazement that only this one foreigner had returned to give God glory. I wonder if from His place in Heaven today He might not be expressing amazement still that there are so few who come back and say, “Thank You.”

We’re so quick to enjoy the gift and so quick to forget the Giver.

Edward Spencer pulled 17 passengers out of the icy waters of Lake Michigan and not one ever came back to say, “Thank you; thank you.”

Grace has abounded toward us as guilty sinners. May our gratitude be as overflowing as God’s grace.

Leslie: I want to be like the one man who returned to his Healer and said, “Thank You.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us why gratitude should naturally follow forgiveness. This topic will have a deep effect on your life. People will enjoy being around you when you maintain a grateful spirit. More importantly, you’ll bring God glory as you joyfully express thanks for all He’s done.

Do you find yourself keeping two lists: one list of big sins and one list of small sins? Well, where does ingratitude fall on that list? We’ll talk about that on Monday. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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