(This devotional is day fifteen of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
Sometimes we ignore giving thanks because we’ve become used to something, or someone. My wife does many things for our family, including cooking delicious meals. Sometimes I make the meal, but I’m more of the sous-chef and taste-tester than the master chef she is. While I’m grateful for her loving our family through a home-cooked meal, anytime something becomes common there’s a danger of overlooking it. Or maybe we feel thankful, but we show our gratitude a little less because we’re accustomed to it. This happens in the home, the office, and in the church. But it also happens in our spiritual life.
The gospel, the good news of salvation in Christ by grace through faith, can become such a thing. Over the years, you hear about the work of Christ or the gift of forgiveness dozens or even hundreds of times. While there might be a bit of gratitude always present, if we’re not careful, we can become desensitized to how undeserving we are of it and how precious a gift it is.
A thin consideration of the gospel can lead to such callousness. But as we dwell on the worth of Jesus, the cost of his sacrifice, the depths of our sin, the holiness of God, and all the blessings we have now in Christ, these fresh logs of truth thrown on the fire warm our hearts and stoke the flames of gratitude.
We must guard against growing cold to the gospel. The good news cannot become old news. When it becomes something we take for granted, we lose a sense of gratitude. When it becomes background noise, something we tune out when we hear about it, something we’re familiar with and able to move past, then we neglect how beautiful, valuable, and life-changing the gospel is. Not just was, but is.
If awe of the gospel wears off, polish it with a fresh coat of gospel-centered meditation. Never move past the gospel. We need it today and tomorrow, just like we needed it at the moment of conversion.
“If the gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life but the A to Z, we can expect that the gospel is for all of life, not just the moment of conversation. The gospel’s saving work is deep work. It is deep tissue massage, spiritual reparative therapy, and radical reconstructive surgery.”
The gospel needs worked into our life, into our souls, deeper and deeper every day. We don’t need converted or justified again, but we do need saved from our selfishness, autonomy, brokenness, our fallen flesh, and our tendency to live by performance rather than grace. Every day we sin, so our need for forgiveness and cleansing is a daily matter (1 John 1:9). We need the Spirit’s power to help us put off the old self and live as a new person (Romans 6). We can’t produce the fruit of the Spirit unless the Spirit is at work in us, which happens as we live by faith rather than trusting in our own works (Galatians 4-5).
Our standing must be rooted in the gospel of grace so we believe God loves us and is for us. No condemnation hangs over us, despite us (Romans 8:1). If we have the self-awareness to notice our daily—or hourly—sin, we should recognize how desperate we are for the gospel every single day. Desperation for something should lead to thankfulness, since we’ve been given what we were desperate for.
Unlike how eating out for several days in a row can renew our appreciation for a home-cooked meal, we don’t take a break from experiencing the benefits of the gospel. Which is great news. But the potential downside of that is we can become so used to the luxury we live in as believers that its shine wears off. We’re like people whose cabinets and fridges are always full so they never know what it’s like to be hungry anymore, so they don’t appreciate the blessing food is. It’s when we experience our need, or when something is missing, that we feel thankful for otherwise neglected blessings. No one is more thankful for doctors and medicine than sick people. No one is more thankful for a Savior than sinners.
This is why it’s important to reflect on all that we have in Christ, including remembering who we were before him and who we are now in him (Ephesians 2:1-11). And like our passage does today, remembering how Christ provides everything we need today for godliness can renew thanksgiving in our hearts. Consider some of what Romans 6 helps us keep in mind.
- In Christ, we died to sin, meaning we’re freed from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin over us.
- In Christ, we have been raised to new life.
- We get a foretaste of resurrection through regeneration, sort of like how the staff at a Michelin star restaurant gets to sample the meal before it hits the menu.
- We’re not only made new now, but we’re given the promise of a full and complete resurrection when our bodies are made whole, sin is wiped away, and all things are made right.
- Sin is no longer our master; Jesus is. We don’t have to be ruled by our desires.
- We’re given power through Christ in us to walk in our newfound freedom and follow him.
- Our right standing before God and our empowerment from God come from His free grace.
- Though we often fail, we now at times do obey God, not for what’s in it for us but out of love for Him. We are imperfect, but are changed.
- Eternal life has replaced eternal death as the destiny awaiting us.
None of this would be true apart from Jesus. Whenever we do sin, it can be used as a reminder of how precious the gospel is. Though we shouldn’t treat sin as if it isn’t a big deal (Romans 6:1), when we do fail and sin it should awaken in us a clear awareness of our desperate need for Jesus, not just for forgiveness from sin but for freedom from sin. “When our greatest sorrow is our own sin, our greatest happiness will be the gospel of God making us holy.”
And when we obey God or do anything good, rather than promoting pride or pushing us past the gospel, it should cause us to see the fruit of living in the gospel. We do this only because Jesus is in us and we are raised with him. The slightest glimmer of a flame in our hearts obeying God exists because he lit it and keeps it alive. We can echo Paul’s grateful declaration, “thanks be to God” (Romans 6:17).
Today you might need to reflect again on the wonder of the gospel. Consider who you were before Jesus and apart from Jesus alongside who you are now in Christ. You’re far from perfect, but you are forgiven, and hopefully, you can see some growth, however small it might seem. Meditate on all you have in Christ, on your dependence on him, and on the victory and new life that’s yours through him.
Don’t sweep the dirt of your sin under the rug and act as if it’s not there, but let it lead you to the cross where it truly was swept away as Jesus took it for us. Rejoice in the new life you have today and the freedom from sin’s power as you present yourself again to Christ.
 Jared Wilson, Gospel Deeps (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 41.
 Wilson, Gospel Deeps, 87.