Proud People Don’t Say Thanks — that was the title of Pastor John’s Thanksgiving sermon way back in 1983 (yes, thirty years ago). And with Pastor John on the final leg of his trip through the Middle East, today on the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, we’re doing something totally different. We’re digging back into the sermon archive to resurface a clip from that sermon in 1983. This sermon is based on Romans 1:16–23, and it’s a passage worth reflecting on annually when Thanksgiving comes around. Here’s a brief clip of what Pastor John had to say in that message thirty years ago:
So for those who love the truth, creation becomes a dazzling lesson book. In theology, It teaches the open mind that there is a deity — an infinitely marvelous being who made the world and everything in it. It teaches that this being has stupendous power, and that this power is eternal. The world in its molecular and visual and galactic order and structure bears witness to an architect. And if that architect made everything that is, then he himself was not made, but must have been always, and is eternal. An eternally powerful, infinitely marvelous Maker of all things is evident in the lesson book of creation, and that’s not all you can learn from the lesson book of creation.
Our Marvelous Maker
If, in fact, there is an all-powerful, infinitely marvelous Maker of all things, then I know something very personal: he made me, and everything I have, I have from his hand as a free gift. I am made — creature, utterly dependent, and everything that I enjoy is a gift from the hand of an all-powerful Creator. I stand before the irresistible logic of the lesson book of creation, and I have to admit that everything, without exception, is a free gift. And that has tremendous implications. It’s inconceivable that the Creator should ever owe me anything. It is inconceivable that a creature should be owed anything by his creator. When could I have ever given anything to God, which was not his, so that then he would owe me back? “For from him and through him and to him are all things,” the apostle says (Romans 11:36). I am not my own. I belong to another.
“It’s inconceivable that the Creator should ever owe me anything.”
Creation testifies that we are creatures — that God is all-glorious, eternally powerful, that we should cherish him and give him continual, heartfelt thanks day and night. But for some mysterious reason, every single human heart hates that message and therefore suppresses it with all its might. Or as Romans 1:25 says, “[We exchange] the truth about God for a lie.” Here, I’ll trade. Give me your lie. I’ll give you the truth of creation. And the reason I think we do that is because the truth of creation is humiliating. From sea to shining sea, creation shouts that God has eternal power. God is infinitely glorious. God made me and everything I enjoy. And as for me, what is left for me? Just humbly thank the Lord. Just give him glory through gratitude. That’s all that’s left for you. Gratitude as a recipient, always a recipient.
Only Gratitude Remains
But proud people don’t say thanks. Gratitude is the echo of grace reverberating through the hollows of the heart, but proud people don’t need grace, and proud people have all the hollows of their heart crammed full up with wisdom: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images” (Romans 1:22–23). Proud people don’t say thanks. Tight lipped, they take the diamond of God’s glory, enter into the pawn shop of pride, hawk it for the broken marble of self-reliance, and then they go home, and they put their little marble with its cat’s eye and cracks on the mantle of their mind and find one hundred ways every day to bow down to that idol.
My desire for you this morning is your gratitude. Proud people don’t say thanks. I want you to have the deepest, most authentic, most joyful Thanksgiving of your life on Thursday, nothing less. And the reason it can be in spite of your and my miserable failure to thank God as we ought day in and day out is because of this gracious word from our Father in heaven:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
“I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15)
There’s our hope — nowhere else. For the true child of God, the repeated discovery of sin in this life leads to grief, which produces repentance, which leads to salvation, which brings no regret, according to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:10. Have you never been driven to tears precisely because you are forgiven? I pray that there will be great, heartfelt thanksgiving to God in all your homes this week.
I hope that some of you sing in the garage for the first time, or the shower — someplace where nobody can hear that awful voice, just God, in his delight, taking in a song of thanksgiving that rises up out of a broken, contrite, forgiven spirit. I hope some of you write poems of thanksgiving to share with your families this week. I hope some of you write in your journal prayers of praise. I hope some of you make long lists on white paper of the hundreds of blessings that God has brought to you in spite of your sin, and which he will continue to bring. And I hope that some of you spend very special times with God. And I hope that some of you say to your wife or husband or very special friend eyeball to eyeball, “I thank God for you.” We need to say a lot of that this week, okay?
Three Humbling Truths
But proud people don’t say thanks, and therefore I have tried to lay before you three very humbling truths this morning.
First, the lesson book of creation teaches that there is an eternally powerful, all-glorious Being who made me, made you, and everything you enjoy is a free gift, not something that you have earned. And our duty therefore is simply to glorify him by giving thanks from hearts of deep gratitude.
And the second truth is that none of you ever do that like you should. An infinite God with infinite mercy and infinite beneficence is worthy of the intensest, most consistent, heartfelt gratitude and love and devotion every day, all day long that any human can possibly give. Is there anybody in here who does that? We sin every day. We are sinners. Poverty of spirit is not something to be left behind. We have no choice, if we’re honest. We must be broken and contrite in spirit.
And the third humbling truth is this: Almighty God our Creator, in the great love with which he loved us, sent Christ into the world to endure your judgment — the judgment of those who are broken and contrite in spirit and look away from themselves to him for hope.
Proud people don’t say thanks, but people who believe those three truths say thanks. And they don’t just say thanks, they feel thanks from the bottom of their heart — the truth that we are utterly dependent creatures, the truth that we are depraved in our condition, and the truth that we are forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
And if those three truths will penetrate your heart this morning, if you’ll open yourselves to them and welcome them, then they will empty you of pride. And you know what’ll happen tonight? You will be filled from the bottom to the brim with tremendous thanksgiving,