With Thanksgiving soon here, it gives me an opportunity to reflect on the many ways in which I've been blessed. This paper couldn't print every way and everything that the good Lord, Jesus Christ, has blessed me, so I'll focus on three of the most important blessings that anyone could ever have. The first can be found in John 3:16-18, which says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." A shortened verse that says the same thing can be found in John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Just take a look at what these verses are saying and think about it. It means that if I trust in what Jesus did on that cross nearly 2000 years ago, that I can have an eternity in Heaven. However, I realize that many that make this claim are in actuality walking in darkness (1 John 1:6 and Matthew 7:21), so I'll elaborate on what I mean by trusting or believing in Christ and why I am thankful to Him.
First of all, comes the realization of my human nature, that when I stand before the Holy God, I see that I'm not a good guy that is doing just an occasional sin, but more like Jeremiah 17:9 said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked...." As Paul said in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" James adds, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10) Because of sin, we find ourselves to be an object of God's wrath, as Paul explains in Ephesians 2:3, "Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. " John also makes this clear in Revelation 21:27, "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
The solution for my sins is found in Romans 5:8, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." What was accomplished that day at Calvary is "The Gift" that God gave us because He loved us. This gift is what John 3:16 (above) is all about and changes the eternal destination of me and anyone else that trusts in what He did. More precisely, the Gift is explained in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," and 1 Peter 2:24, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." This is the Gift of reconciliation, that the Scriptures show us repeatedly. We are healed (Isaiah 53:5), and "being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." (Romans 5:9) As Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." For this gift, at Thanksgiving, and everyday, I am thankful.
The second thing that I am thankful for is the BIBLE because, as can be clearly seen by now, it is the Bible that I can rely on to know about God and His gifts, and as John 8:31 and 32 says, "... If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." The Bible (continuing to look closer at this gift mentioned above), tells me that when Jesus declared from the cross, "It is finished," (John 19:30) that He took care of all my sins, even the ones that I haven't committed yet because from that point, they were all future. That is why Paul, even though he knows that he will still sin occasionally, can proclaim his future is an eternity in Heaven. (see Romans 7:15- 8:1) Paul, like the other Scripture writers, knew that this gift can only be gotten "... by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8+9) Like any gift, this gift cannot be bought or earned as explained in Romans 11:6, "And if by (God's) grace, then is it no more of (my) works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
And thirdly, this Thanksgiving I am thankful for God allowing me to be "born again." John 3:5 says, "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." I was born of water when I was physically born in 1951, with the idea that infants start in their mother's water sac. My Spiritual "rebirth" came around 1995 because of God's Word. The Bible explains, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17) Thus, the Holy Spirit using the word of God to reach me (Romans 1:16, Ephesians 6:17), I was then spiritually reborn, just as the Bible says in Ephesians 1:13, "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." The humbling part is to see that the Bible tells us that my righteousness comes not from what I can do (Romans 4:5,6), but only because of Him. "...No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Matthew 11:27) Why He chose me, I don't know, except that my qualifications are found in 1 Corinthians 1:27 - "... God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty."
God's word tells us that we are saved by faith in what He did at Calvary, "Justified by His Blood," not Sacraments, not any amount of masses or penances, nor good works by me nor anyone else to merit grace for me. After seeing what God did to reconcile us (Whosoever believeth), and for providing His Word for us, "... that ye may know that ye have eternal life," (1 John 5:13 and John 20:31) I am, and will always be, eternally thankful.