Are you a thankful person, or do you hate yourself—but I’ll get to that. Do you live with a heart full of gratitude for what God, and the people in your life who care for you, have and continue to do for you? When someone makes an effort, do you look at their intent, or just at the result? Do you appreciate that they cared enough to try, the love they put into it, their time? Or do you just look at the end result—whether you personally benefitted from it?
“…singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16 NIV)
Gratitude really is a Christian virtue; it is not something that occurs naturally in the human heart. Our human response apart from how God tells us we should look at things is an attitude of give me, give me, give me. We want, and it had better be good or you’ll hear about it in some way, shape or form.
Why? Because we are born thinking only about ourselves, and in the absence of hearing, believing and accepting what God teaches us through His Word, it remains just “all about me” in our minds. In the extreme—if you’re abandoned as a child; if you don’t have a mature, wise parent or parent-figure to guide your developing thinking; if you had a bad example of ingratitude as a role model and made the mistake of copying it in your own behavior—you will grow up harsh, selfish, highly demanding, and unforgiving. Why? Because that’s our inborn, natural condition—it’s our sin nature.
We don’t have to do anything to get that—it’s the lowest common denominator, the default position we sink down to in the absence of effort to the contrary. In this way, it’s like any other product of our sin nature—laziness, lack of motivation, filthiness of mind or body, hate, envy, greed—without any effort on our part to do better and rise higher, it’s what we descend to.
That’s why we teach our children—it’s why God gave parents, among other reasons. Yes, it is to protect us physically and provide for us while cannot yet do so ourselves, but it is also to teach us what we need to know about the world and how to relate to God and others in our lives. That is why thinking parents take their children to church; it is why they try to get them into the habit of picking up their Bible and reading it; why they teach them to talk to God, to confess their sins and ask for His help to be the people He wants us to be—the people, in Christ, we can be.
But when people reject that—when they fall for the lie that God did not create us (using whatever particular means to do so which do not contradict what He told us in His Word); that He does not exist; that we are completely alone in this big cosmic result of evolutionary forces (or worse—that “natural selection” favors self-centeredness)—that’s when the world see the most abominable manifestations of the depravity of the human soul. It is when mankind is deceived into sinking to its lowest levels!
Secularists scoff at it, but it is God’s instruction in the Bible that keeps us from descending to the depths of moral depravity. Others argue that rejecting God and the Bible doesn’t mean you have to degenerate in every way imaginable—yet they run afoul of the concept of moral relativism. Once you do away with right and wrong, how can you argue that anything is really wrong? If being a homeless alcoholic works for you, who am I to say it’s bad?
No, remember that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins? He paid the guilt—the penalty—for our sins so that we can have a clean conscience, and being right with God, live on a higher plane; so we can rise to a better standard than giving up and not even trying because we subliminally hate ourselves for how evil we really are. That’s what astute therapists recognize—that people often self-sabotage because we know best how bad we really are, and don’t feel we deserve better.
Yes, we hope for eternity with God because of Jesus, but He saves us from this, too—from hating ourselves. If God loves and forgives me; if I am “accepted in the Beloved [Jesus Christ]” (as I am!)—who am I to contradict God; to hate myself when He loves me so fully?! It is the knowledge and consciousness of complete forgiveness and acceptance that frees me—that releases me from the guilt of feeling I don’t deserve any better and sabotaging my own life. And it is what urges me to not settle for the path of least resistance at the lowest moral level. Why? Because God wants more for me!
So the next time you find yourself being selfish, or demanding, or unforgiving, or harsh; the next time you don’t feel like you deserve anything better than the miserable rut you might have allowed yourself to fall into—come back to Jesus! Realizes it’s not what He wants for you; it’s not His plan. Confess, admit, ask; let the consciousness of Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance wash over you! Let the knowledge that He paid the penalty for your sins every bit as much as for anyone else’s cleanse you. Ask Him to fill you with the strength of His Spirit so you don’t have to do life alone; so you can rise to the level He means you to live at!
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions…When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.” (Galatians 5:16-26 NLT)
Dear Lord God,
Forgive me—thank You that You have forgiven me and accept me completely through Jesus; that You love me with an eternal love in Him! Fill me with Your Spirit—help me rise to the level You desire for me! Help me know that even though I am guilty of evil, it was nailed to the cross and paid for by Him; that I’m forgiven and accepted in Him and freed to live the life I was meant to! Help me be patient, and forgiving, and loving and kind and faithful and self-controlled and everything else You now give me the power to do. Thank You so much for everything You have done, dear Lord God; everything You continue to do; and everything You will yet do in the future! Amen.