- Sermon Notes
The Transforming Power of Gratitude
November 19-20, 2022
There are many themes that run through the Scriptures from beginning to end. One of those themes is the transforming power of gratitude. In other words, something happens in the heart of the one who is thankful to God, it is a transforming power on the soul.
Make no mistake, there is much that is wrong in this world and there is no shortage of things to complain about. There are many tragedies that can make the heart bitter, but there is a transforming power when we recognize that God wants us to have a heart that is thankful to Him.
When our daughter was killed in 2014, it shook us to the very foundation of our souls. It’s tragedies like that that make people question God, to question their faith. It was a spiritual crossroad. We decided that as for me and my house, we would hold on to faith, we would believe that God walks with us even through the valley of the shadow of death.
We miss our daughter very much. Her children miss their mother. But this we know, that before our daughter was born, God wrote next to her name the number of days He had ordained for her. We respect God so we respect that number. We have decided to be thankful for every one of those 10,724 days rather than become bitter over the days we did not have. For this we also know, God holds our daughter in heaven, and we will be together again. There is much to be thankful for.
That brings us to Leviticus. In this book, God gives instruction to Israel on the worship of God. There were various sacrifices and offerings they were to bring as part of their heart to worship. There were sin offerings and guilt offerings; we can certainly understand the need for that.
There were also burnt offerings, although the word burnt sounds like they can’t cook. When we were growing up, if someone burnt the dinner, we would throw it out to the chickens and call it a “burnt offering.”
Burnt offerings were offerings holy consumed by fire on the altar as a soothing aroma. In other words, it was a pleasant aroma to God and to the people. It was wholly consumed on the altar. It represented a relationship to God where the worshiper was filled with the heart of worship, of passion for God, a soul peaceably made whole.
There were ‘free will offerings.’ In other words, worshipers could bring these offerings simply because they wanted to, oftentimes out of a heart of gratitude.
For example, when they brought in the harvest of barley or wheat and wanted to recognize it was God’s hand that brought their great blessing, they could bring a grain offering.
They could also bring a peace offering. The idea was not the bringing of a gift for the purpose of obtaining peace; like a husband who offends his wife and then brings home flowers as a peace offering. No, that’s not the idea.
The worshiper would bring a peace offering as a way of showing gratitude. His heart was peaceably made whole. It was a peace offering for thanksgiving. It was to be brought both with meat and with bread. Some of the bread was unleavened and some of the bread cakes were leavened bread. Some was offered on the altar as a soothing aroma to God, some of it eaten by the priests and the rest eaten by the worshiper, his family, and their friends.
In Leviticus 22, God brings another reminder of the importance of the sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. It was a vital part of their relationship to God, so He reminds them how paramount it is.
The giving of thanks to God is important for us as well. There is transforming power in a heart that is thankful; there is power in gratitude. It’s a theme that runs through the entire Bible because it’s such an important aspect of our relationship to God. When you’re thankful, it changes your perspective; it causes you to see life differently. It touches on the very meaning of life and the quality of living.
We have an entire holiday dedicated to giving thanks.
In November 1621, the pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered for a harvest celebration feast — and to watch football. That last part has not been verified by historians, but rumor has it that the Redskins were playing the Chiefs.
Today, when many people think of thanksgiving, they think of turkey. What’s interesting is the Hebrew word for the turkey – Hodu – is the same word in Hebrew for giving thanks.
God wanted the giving of thanks to Him to be an integral part of their relationship to Him. God had a unique relationship to Israel, distinct from all other nations. The distinction wasn’t just national; it was also to be personal. God wanted them to have a relationship to Him that included a heart that was thankful for all that God had done for each of them personally.
I. Share Grace with Nothing Leftover
- One of the differences between the Hebrew thanksgiving meal in Leviticus and ours was leftovers. Leftovers are a big part of Thanksgiving in our culture; some people eat turkey and cranberry sandwiches for a week.
- In contrast, the Jewish sacrifice of thanksgiving must be shared with others to the point that nothing was left over. Invite as many as necessary, share your offering of thanks; make sure everyone partakes to the full and nothing is left over.
- In other words, if you’re truly thankful, share. Share your blessings with others.
Illus – When I was in Bible college, I was a server at a high-class restaurant. One day, a group of four came in, asked for the best table, and ordered the most expensive items on the menu. One of them had sold his business and was so thankful he wanted to share with his friends. And of course, with me – what a great tip! So I stopped on the way home and bought sparkling cider and treats to share with Jordi!
- If you have received God’s amazing grace, you can afford to be generous in giving grace to others. Don’t be selfish with forgiveness or kindness or love. Your cup overflows from God’s amazing generosity!
A. Thanksgiving and peace go together
- The giving of thanks and a peace offering were interconnected in the Old Testament offerings.
- There are also several New Testament scriptures that tell us that thanksgiving and peace are connected…
Colossians 3:15-16, Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- Thanksgiving was part of the peace offering in Israel. When a worshiper brought the sacrifice of a thanksgiving offering and ate the meal, he was sharing that meal with God Himself.
- It was peace with God and gratitude to God that was celebrated, so the meal itself was shared with God, with the priests, and with family.
- For the Hebrews, eating together was of great significance. It was a picture of commonality, of communion, of oneness in relationship.
Illus – We had an opportunity to be with an African family and watch their traditions of eating a meal. It was interesting, but it certainly wasn’t fellowship.
Illus – The Hebrews at that time would also eat without forks. They would tear off a piece of bread, take a piece meat with it, and dip it into a common bowl of sauce, thus sharing everything together.
Illus – The Pharisees thought they were accusing Jesus when they said, “He eats with publicans and sinners.” But Jesus ate with sinners on purpose.
B. Gratitude satisfies the soul
- There are only three places in scripture where they were instructed to have nothing left over. Each of them is important.
- The Passover lamb was to not see decay, so anything remaining at morning must be burned with fire. That Passover lamb was a picture of Jesus.
- They were to gather only enough manna for one day to demonstrate their faith in trusting God for each day’s bread. Jesus is the bread from heaven.
- The thanksgiving offering was also to be fully eaten as a demonstration of the soul being fully satisfied in God.
Illus – In many cultures eating everything means you are completely satisfied.
- If you have a lack of gratitude, then you have a lack in being satisfied. It is only in being thankful that our souls are full.
- If you don’t know how to be thankful, you’ll never be happy because there will always be something to complain about.
- Thanksgiving is a condition of the heart. God knows that having gratitude in the heart is part of living a happy and blessed life.
- The writer of the book of Hebrews captures this perfectly.
Hebrews 13:15, Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
- We need to offer a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips because of what it does in us.
C. Thanksgiving is a sacrifice
- Thanksgiving is a sacrifice because our flesh doesn’t want to be thankful.
- In our flesh, we want to feel sorry for ourselves, we want to be cynical, and grumpy, and caustic, and say every rude thing we feel. If our flesh doesn’t feel good, we want everyone to know it.
- But if you want to have a full and blessed life, then you need to have a grateful and thankful heart.
- If you see only the imperfections in yourself and in others and focus on those imperfections, then you will have little to be thankful for.
Illus – There is a story of a man who wanted to become a monk and entered the monastery. He was told he must take a vow of silence and would be allowed to say only two words every five years…
- But when you learn to turn things over to the Lord with a heart of thanksgiving, then the soul becomes satisfied and peace rules in your heart.
Philippians 4:4,6-7, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! …Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 92:1-2, It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night,
II. A Thankful Heart is Honoring to God
- Verses 31-33 speaks of God’s heart that the purpose of bringing a thank offering is to honor, or sanctify Him, in their hearts.
- I sanctify you so I want you to sanctify Me, God is saying.
Psalm 50:23, He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
A. Thanksgiving is a freewill offering
- In other words, God did not require them to have a heart of thanksgiving; He allowed gratitude to be something they could offer of their own free will.
- The New King James reads verse 29 in this way, “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will.”
- When you come to God and respond to Him of your own free will, then your heart is blessed because of it.
Illus – When we’re raising our kids, we often make them do things they don’t really want to do. Johnny bonks Billy over the head with a toy truck and we say, “Now Johnny, tell Billy you’re sorry!” The problem is that Johnny doesn’t mean a word of it! He’s not sorry at all!
- It’s not just important what you do, but why you do it. If you say you love God, this will be seen in the way you live, but the reasons for what you do are just as important.
Proverbs 16:2, All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.
B. In all things give thanks
- There is an amazing aspect of the thanksgiving offering that many people do not see but is actually very important to understand.
- In all the offerings, when they were to bring bread, it was to be Leaven was a picture of sin, trials, and difficulties.
- But with the offering of thanksgiving, they were to bring both leavened and unleavened bread in the offering of thanksgiving.
- Many see this as an important lesson of faith; be thankful for the good things, but also be thankful in the trials and difficulties of life.
- It’s not that you’re thankful for the trials and difficulties, you’re thankful in
1 Thessalonians 5:18,… in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
- Notice that verse doesn’t say give thanks for everything, it says give thanks in
Illus – Corrie Ten Boom and her sister were arrested for helping the Jews during the holocaust and were sent to Ravensbruck, a “work camp” for prisoners… “Thank you for the fleas…”
- Paul gave us this example in his own life when he wrote to the church in Corinth…
2 Corinthians 12:10, Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
- This is where the believer is distinct from those who have no faith because we know God is able to use difficulties in our lives and we trust Him by faith that He will work all things in our lives for His glory and our good.
- Even the difficulties themselves and even the difficult people God can use for His glory…
Illus – During the Great Depression there were two cabins next to each other some distance out of town. In one lived a crotchety old man who was an atheist. In the other was an old woman who was a devout Christian…
Romans 5:3-4, And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
C. Enter His courts with thanksgiving
- Lastly, Psalm 100 gives insight into how God wants you to come near to Him…
Psalm 100:4-5, Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.
Leviticus 22:29-33 NASB
“29 When you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. 30 It shall be eaten on the same day, you shall leave none of it until morning; I am the Lord. 31 So you shall keep My commandments, and do them; I am the Lord.
32 “You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the Lord who sanctifies you, 33 who brought you out from the land of Egypt, to be your God; I am the Lord.”