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IF WE ARE TRULY THANKFUL, WE WILL SERVE JESUS CHRIST AS OUR KING

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

21 NOVEMBER 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Isaiah 58:1-14
Matthew 6:16
        25:40
John 7:38
Ephesians 4:28

To say that if we are truly thankful, we will serve Jesus Christ as our King, doesn't change the fact that He is still King, whether or not we are either thankful or serve Him.

Throughout the ages people have served the Lord in sincerity, while others have only faked their service.

That's why Jesus said in Matthew 6:16,

16. "And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

They have their reward from the people who take notice of them, the people who, in essence, they are really serving.

They are not serving God!

We can serve the Lord better by being truly thankful for a feast of all kinds of things from God's garden, rather than by fasting begrudgingly or faking our holiness before others.

The 58th chapter of Isaiah speaks of our attitude in serving the Lord our God. Listen to what the Lord says, through Isaiah, to those who pretend to serve Him.

1. "Cry loudly, do not hold back;
Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their transgression,
And to the house of Jacob their sins.

This would be the same as saying, "Cry out to the Christian churches around the world." For as we know, Christians are God's people, too.

2. "Yet they seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness,
And has not forsaken the ordinances of their God.
They ask me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.

They sure sound like true believers, like people singing and praising the Lord in our churches, don't they?

Then why is the Lord so angry with them?

3. 'Why have we fasted and Thou dost not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and Thou dost not notice?'
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.

4. "Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.

We can't fool God.

He knows the true intent of our heart, no matter what we say or do on the outside.

And I have heard a lot of so-called Christians complaining about the Lord not answering their prayers, as did those in our Scripture passage.

Listen to how the Lord questions them about their real attitude.

5. "Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one's head like a reed,
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?

Then the Lord states how our worship should really be, and how we should be on the inside, if we are to truly worship and give thanks.

6. “Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free,
And break every yoke?

7. "Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry,
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

This is very similar to what Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:28.

28. Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.

In other words, if we have already broken the bonds of wickedness within ourselves, and truly seek righteousness, it is better to care for others in need than to fast.

For as Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 25:40, to serve one of these in need is the same as serving Him.

40. "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

So, it is better to prepare a feast for the poor and join them in fellowship, than to fast before others and to do nothing to help those in need.

As we return to Isaiah, listen to the Lord’s message of grace to those who practice what He desires:

8. "Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

9. "Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke [of sin] from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

10. And if you give yourself to the hungry,
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness,
And your gloom will become like midday.

11. "And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Most likely, there isn't one of us who hasn't had some sort of problem in our lives, when we felt the gloom of depression.

What the Lord is telling us here is that as we help to remove the gloom of despair and depression from others, so the Lord also does for each of us.

And we truly believe that this premise of helping others also extends to every animal.

Our real prayer and worship is not how we act in our service, but how we act after we leave; it is how we live before others and treat others.

The length, and width, and depth of our love and compassion toward all of God's creation shows the Lord how much we really love Him.

There are many Christians today, as there were many Hebrews at the time when Isaiah proclaimed this message, who are caught in the birth canal of their spiritual rebirth; for they have spoken the words, but have never lived the life.

Without unconditional love and compassion as an integral part of our being, we can never breathe the breath of our life everlasting.

And to those who have the breath of everlasting life, the Lord says,

12. "And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach [or that which has previously been torn down],
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

There are many people in this world, and even in our own community, who literally try to destroy someone else's life.

They try to destroy homes by disrupting the family life that the Lord our God gave us to enjoy.

They dig spiritual potholes in the roads and pathways of life, to cause others to trip and fall.

But with love and compassion, we can overcome their evilness, fill in the potholes, and actually be the rebuilder of what they have destroyed.

Be thankful to the Lord for these gifts of love, compassion, and peace in Christ that He has given us, and share it with others.

It all boils down to our attitude toward the Lord.

13. "If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot
From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable,
And shall honor it, desisting from your own ways,
From seeking your own pleasure,
And speaking your own word,

14. Then you will take delight in the Lord,
And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

If we don't have the true delight of the Lord within us, then we haven't fully let go of the worldly way of life that non-believers practice.

It's a sign that we are not wholly thankful for our salvation, and the opportunities the Lord has given us.

To the degree of our faithfulness, we will see the faithfulness of the Lord.

Every good thing the Lord has promised us is all around us. He has fulfilled His promise.

All we have to do to receive them is to make some room in our lives for them, by cleaning out those things in our lives that are not pleasing to the Lord, and which take up far more space than the good things the Lord has for us.

We can never be really thankful for the things that are not pleasing to the Lord; but as we experience, more and more, the Lord's gifts of love and compassion, the more we come to realize what being truly thankful is all about.

It's as we are told in John 7:38.

38. "He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.' ''

For the real gift we receive is the Holy Spirit, and it is His life-giving force of love and compassion that flows forth from us.

Now, with this in mind, let's consider the feast of Thanksgiving.

Why are we going to celebrate it?

If we say, "It's a national holiday. Everyone is going to celebrate it. So am I." – then we have missed the point, and we are as those the Lord spoke against in our Isaiah passage, for we are celebrating it mechanically.

But if we say, “Sometimes I need to be reminded of all that I have to be thankful for, and this day helps me better focus upon those things.” – then we are much closer to the point that the Lord is trying to make with us.

But what are we thankful about? All the food, or the family gathering, or not having to go to work?

If that's the limit of our thankfulness, we have missed the boat again.

But if our thankfulness is toward the Lord, for our salvation, for the freedom we have, for not having the wars here that are going on in other parts of the world, for our home and family, and for our food and clothing, then we are much closer to where we are to be spiritually.

But there is more, and for those who have it, it is most important: for we are also thankful for the sensitivity the Lord has given us, to feel the pain and suffering of others, both of humans and of other animals; for the gift of unconditional love and compassion, for having the desire to give of ourselves and to help others, and for knowing that the Lord is with us at all times.

It is with this last aspect of our thankfulness, that we really begin to serve the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.

It is here that we really lift up the name of Jesus.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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