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Thankfulness and True Worship

Unthankful. This is probably one the most striking characteristics of those in our modern society. This ungratefulness is derived from the fact that most individuals live their lives with a sense of entitlement. That is, we believe that we have the right to fulfill every passion of our heart (immediately most of the time), that we have earned whatever position or authority we may have, and that any possessions or wealth we may have amassed are deserved. In reality, we are ignoring the One who gives us the desires of our hearts (cf. Psalm 37:4), the Source of all authority (cf. Romans 13:1), and “[the] God who made the world and everything in it [including our wealth and possessions]” (Acts 17:24).

Dr. Harold Best said:

There is no worship of any kind, anywhere in this world, that is not worship. We can put this even more bluntly: There is no one in this world who is not, at this moment, at worship in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, formally or informally, passively or passionately.

“Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols” (John Calvin).

In other words, we are always worshipping something or someone. If it’s not God, then it’s our passions, positions, possessions, wealth, or ourselves. Without God, these become idols in our lives. The word “idol” comes from the Greek eidolon which can be simply defined as a mental or material image. When we add the suffix “-latry” (from the Greek –latreia which means worship or service) we have the word “idolatry”—the worship or service of a mental or material image(s). In short, we have created a god (with a lowercase “g”) to receive worship rather than worshipping God (with a capital “G”).

We are a spitting image of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:21-23:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

As a result of believing that we are entitled, we have come to the point where we know God (cf. Romans 1:20) but neither glorify Him nor give Him thanks. This idea of claiming to be wise is especially clear in modern taxonomy. Man has been given the name “homo sapiens sapiens” meaning “wise, wise man”. But the Bible makes it clear that we are fools if we practice idolatry.

Why is idolatry foolish? Jonah 2:8 says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” With idolatry, man becomes the ultimate deity; he becomes god. As a result, we are free practice all forms of iniquity. The ultimate goal? It is to “…enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (Hebrews 11:25). It is just that—a short time—because God “has set forth a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man [Jesus] he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

So what is the cure for our idolatry? If our idolatry causes us to be fools, as the Bible says, wouldn’t it be logical that we must truly become wise in order to forsake our idolatry and give God the glory He deserves?

We are told in the Bible that, “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27). Elsewhere in Scripture we are told that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). The author of Psalm 119 said, “My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws” (Psalm 119:120). Idolatry is a snare that leads to death; we need the fear of the Lord. We need God’s laws; we need God’s laws to impart wisdom to us.

His law says:

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

—Exodus 20:4-6

We have obviously transgressed this, the second of the Ten Commandments. How would we do if we examined ourselves in light of the other nine Commandments? Have you ever lied or stolen or desired something that wasn’t yours? That’s three more of the Commandments that we’ve broken. We are lying, thieving, covetous idolaters and we have to stand before the God that gave us everything that is precious to us. He is a Holy Judge and will give us what our actions deserve:

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.

—2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

But there is good news! God made a way for us to be saved:

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

—Galatians 3:10-13, emphasis added

Christ lived the perfect life and died the perfect death in our place so we could be made right with God! All God requires of us is to “obey the gospel”. That is, we must REPENT (confess and forsake our sins) and TRUST completely in Christ and His work on the Cross.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

For those who have repented and put their trust in Christ, it should stand to reason that we should be the most thankful people in the world. Rather than exalting the creation above its Creator, we give thanks because of the Father’s kindness in saving us; we serve Him with our very lives. Paul sums it up well in his letter to the Romans: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

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