Happy Thanksgiving! Though these days sometimes it might not seem like it, we have so much to be thankful for. We have a new day to live today. Time yet to spend with those we love or to remember those who have passed on. We still have breath in us and minds that can be focused on the good, the blessings, the hope, the faith, and the love of Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord.
Today I am missing my dear Dad who passed away suddenly last January. I miss all of the horrible puns and Dad jokes he would have told today, but am amused thinking he’s probably trying to tell them to St. Paul or someone in heaven. I am thinking of and sad for all of those who are grieving today, all those who are worried and sick, and especially all of those who have turned away from God for one reason or another. My heart goes out to them, and I pray that they may turn to God and to Christ to be comforted and that they may be full again, brimming with joy in knowing their salvation from all the horribleness in this life has been won for them, even if they don’t get to experience the benefits of that just yet.
Today is a good time to contemplate: How exactly did Jesus win our salvation? Well, he died on the cross, as only a payment in lifeblood could satisfy the breaking of God’s perfect law. The key, however, is that not just any person or animal or living thing could satisfy that. In order to save everyone, the being dying had to be perfect and holy, and in His great love for us, God sent Jesus, His Son. Jesus is both man and God. He put aside his heavenly glory to live for 33 years on this earth, and He lived those years perfectly, in perfect submission to every point of God’s law. Jesus then died on the cross, suffering the abandonment of God, which is hell, in payment of everyone’s sins throughout time. And then He died.
But it didn’t end there, no. If Jesus was just a sinful man, he would have stayed in His grave and all hope would have been lost. Because He was holy and perfect, however, Jesus raised himself up from the dead, returning a conqueror of death, the devil, and hell! If Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be, he would have stayed dead. But He is alive today and reigning in full glory in heaven and soon He will come back to take all believers to be with Him. How powerful was Jesus’ sacrifice? Well, he didn’t have to sacrifice himself again and again, just once, one moment in time. His death was so powerful, it tore the heavy, thick curtain in the Jewish temple in two. His death was so powerful, it caused an earthquake. His death was so powerful that it raised people from the dead on that day. It’s amazing to think about. And then He rose and greeted his disciples, who were astonished.
Jesus rose from the dead! Just think about that. I could suffer and die for myself or for another, but really it wouldn’t mean anything, because in no way have I lived a perfect life, and in no way could I raise myself from the dead. I would stay dead and without Jesus’ sacrifice, I would be in hell, suffering properly for my sins. It’s a terrifying and sobering thought. But the truth is that Jesus did come to save us: He lived a perfect live in place of us and died in place of us, too. He took on all of our sins and suffered for them, giving us his righteousness through faith. And He sealed the deal by rising from the dead. Some day, we, too will all rise in our earthly bodies to be with Him and we’ll get new, awesome heavenly bodies. It is a great mystery, the great mystery of life, that human reason just can’t comprehend. What amazing love God has for us!
When I think of salvation and heaven, it seems impossible to wait to get there, but for those of us still living on this earth, God has plans, has work for us to do. On holidays like Thanksgiving it is our work and privilege to love and to witness to our families and close friends. What an awesome responsibility! On days like today we can spend time with those we love, listen to their woes and to their triumphs, and comfort their spirits by reminding them of their salvation in Christ. Especially on days like today, we believers, can let that cup of joy in us overflow to all around us. While we are feasting here on earth, we can also look forward to the great feast will have someday in heaven.
Thankfulness, gratitude, these words barely start to describe our joy. And it is a joy that can carry us through any hardship, through any tough time, through any danger and sorrow. It is a joy that cannot be imprisoned, chained, or taxed…or even quarantined! It is a joy that in faith is ours no matter the circumstances. It is joy in Jesus sacrifice and the seal of the Resurrection. Against all human knowledge and reason, Jesus Christ did not stay dead–He rose from the grave! Today I am full of thanks for that event and I pray you may be, too, and find comfort and hope in it. Our sins are all forgiven and we have heaven waiting for us! Be full today, full of thanks for the blessing of salvation in Christ.
And this is my prayer: That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.Philippians 1:9-11
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe and hold out the word of life–Philippians 2:14-16