The Recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving Even in the Mess We Are in.

Nov 24, 2021 by David Fowler

The Recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving Even in the Mess We Are in.
I know a Thanksgiving commentary on Friday is a day late, but our publication day is Friday, and honestly, no one would read it on Thursday anyway. I hope you don’t also find it a dollar short! I want to share with you a simple recipe for having a Happy Thanksgiving you can feast on for days to come without having to eat “Turkey Surprise.” 
The recipe, and the key to multiple day-after helpings without acid reflux, is not a secret, but it is not much talked about because the main ingredient seems worse than the tofu turkey in the Friends Thanksgiving episode. 

What’s On the Menu?

The key ingredient is Ephesians 5:20, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” I only found one translation, out of about 15, that did not say “for all things” or its linguistic equivalent.
Two things about this verse struck me this week. First, it sure seems to say that we can be the kind of person who always gives thanks for all things. The second is that is discouraging because I am way too inconsistent in being that kind of person. Seems like a command too hard to digest.

Is There Something Else to Eat?

But what got me thinking was remembering that I had been told most of my Christian life that I could pass on the “all things” for the easier-to-digest alternative, namely, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 
I liked the alternative because I thought I might be able to gin up some reason to give thanks “in” a terrible situation. But I have come to realize that this makes my theology of thanksgiving hang on which preposition I focused on, “for” or “in.” I have concluded that this misses the point in two ways.

Do the Two Menu Items Complement Each Other?

In the first place, the two verses are not logically contradictory. I can give thanks “in” everything if I am able to give thanks “for” all things, and if I can give thanks for “all things,” then giving thanks “in” everything is easy-peasy. It sure looks as if the point is this: We can be people for whom thanksgiving in and for all things becomes characteristic of who we are.
But here is the larger point made in both verses, and it is not only the ingredient to a truly Happy Thanksgiving but to being a thankful person, regardless of the situation or any particularly troubling thing itself, and it has nothing to do with prepositions: Deciding what to do with God and Jesus Christ and the relation between the two.
Now, this step is harder for people to swallow than having “Turkey Surprise, 3rd edition,” for Sunday lunch. You must believe what the Bible says about God, made clearer in the Ephesians passage, God as “the Father” and Jesus Christ as “Lord,” the English translation of the Greek word, kyrios, used over 3,000 times in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint) for God.
This is where most people choke on Christianity as if they got the turkey’s wishbone stuck in their throat. That a person existing in human flesh—capable of dying and who did die—could be the same as the God of the Old Testament, or who could be any kind of God for that matter, is either nuts or the most amazing thing any person could ever apprehend.

Why This Particular Ingredient is Essential to Thanksgiving

But to those who believe, it is what 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 says, 
For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
I believe two things here are key to the giving of thanks for and in all things. 
First, note the parallel that is drawn between the Jesus Christ and the Christian and God and the original creation. The original creation was only by the will of God the Father (Revelation 4:11) . It was not some kind of mutual agreement between God and a previously existing autonomous light to partner together. 

Second, without becoming a new creation in Jesus Christ in the same way that God created light in darkness, we will not have, nor can we have “the knowledge of the glory of God.” It is here that we really choke; that I once choked.
Maybe we could concede that two natures—God and human—could exist in one material body. After all, many today consider themselves spiritual beings or having a spiritual component while also having a material body that experiences emotions, pain, and the cessation of physical life.  
But what we choke on is that we will not concede to God the full glory due Him for our salvation because we are bound and determined to make sure God’s will cannot influence or hold sway over our own autonomous will. That’s what I was taught.
But this means salvation, in the end, must be my doing, and an exercise of my autonomous will, or I will not be saved! In sum, God is not able to save anyone Himself, He needs me! If that is truly the case, no wonder He cannot save us and our nation from our current predicament.
If self-exaltation, even if it is miniscule in degree or effect, is too much even for a majority of evangelicals today, should they be surprised non-Christians don’t choke on it too?


Directions for Cooking

For the key ingredient to rise to a lifetime level of thanksgiving, God had to bring me to a point at which I was willing to admit:
that God is all and in all (Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 15:28), and I am nothing if I am not His and He is not mine (Philippians 3:7-8), 
that God must first incline Himself to me (Psalm 71:2, 88:1-2), because I cannot ascend to God to bring Him down to me (Romans 10:6), 
that He has so inclined by coming in the flesh (Philippians 2:5-7) to create a completely new humanity in the person of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45-49) to whom God can join me (1 Corinthians 1: 30), 

This God induced admission is the first course to the ”table” He “has prepared for me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5), namely, living as part of His new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-17) where I not only will be with Him forever (John 14:3), but be like Him (1 John 3:2). That allows me to see that all things now are for the sake of preparing and fitting me for the kind of “glory which shall [finally] be revealed in us (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4: 15). 
Only this can even make it possible for me to be thankful in all things and for all things because, as the Scripture says, only then can I believe that, indeed, “all things are mine (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

Don’t Be Afraid to Eat

The one step to thanksgiving in perpetuity is a big one—bowing all that we are and our entire future before God as He has revealed Himself to be.    
But here is the encouraging news as I have learned: God will catch you up when you feel like bowing is really falling headlong to your death, and when you lose your thanksgiving, as I too often do, He will catch you again and again until this life’s journey is complete, (Psalm 37:24, 27:10, 23:4 ), and you are finally with Him and share in all the glorious perfections of the human nature belonging to the glorified Jesus himself.  
Who could give enough thanks for such glory as we see in face of Christ!
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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