(This devotional is day nineteen of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
What’s your story? What’s your testimony? If you’re a believer in Christ, do you remember the wonderful gift of salvation when Jesus rescued you?
In our verses today, Paul links God’s grace and our gratitude. All the spiritual blessings we receive come to us from Christ and in Christ, so through Christ we find the source of grace and the object of our gratitude
“If you have Christ, you have all of Christ, and to have all of Christ is to have free access to Christ’s all-sufficient grace. Grace is not a gate to fence us back from him. Grace is not a substitute for Christ. Grace does not stand between me and Christ. Rather, says Calvin, ‘All graces are bestowed on us through Christ.’ Grace is shorthand for the full and free access we have to all the merits and power and promises to be found in the person of our Savior (John 1:16-17; Eph. 2:7; 1 Cor. 1:4; 2 Cor. 8:9; 2 Tim. 2:1). Repeatedly, Newton accents ‘the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’ Grace is a stream from Christ, the fountain of all grace, he writes.”Tony Reinke, John Newton on the Christian Life
Our Story Tells a Story
Maybe you have a clear-cut testimony like Paul. You were walking in darkness and the light of the beauty of Christ hit you. You saw the perfect sufficiency of Christ’s work, and you turned from sin and trusted in him alone (2 Cor. 4:4-6). Or maybe you don’t have the date and time of your conversion. Your sin might not feel as audacious, but you know your sin is just as wicked as anyone else and it drove you to Christ. You echo Paul’s words, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15).
I was raised in church and professed faith at a young age. A Sunday school teacher asked if I wanted to go to heaven or hell, and even then, that seemed like an easy choice. I believed what the Bible said about God and the person and work of Jesus, but I’m not sure I understood my sin or need for grace, or if I just made a selfish plea to avoid hell. For the next decade of my life, I mentally believed in the Bible but practically lived the way I wanted. It wasn’t until high-school that a youth-retreat message struck me. I finally saw that nodding my head in agreement with the Bible and trying to be good weren’t the same as knowing and walking with Jesus. It was clear to me the gospel required repentance, which meant giving up on doing things my way so I could follow Jesus.
Though it’s possible I was converted as a kid and didn’t understand discipleship until later, I think it was this high-school experience where God saved me. Not only is that when genuine repentance and faith in Christ took place, but that’s the Spirit changed me. He replaced my anger with peace. The brokenness I felt and experienced all around me was removed as he exchanged it with joy and wholeness. My desires were redirected, and nothing mattered or gave meaning like knowing Him. I felt immediate freedom from many of my sins, and others I felt conviction about, but they took more time to give up. But God was at work. I once was lost, but now I was found. I tasted the sweetness of the amazing grace found only in Jesus.
As I think about this again, grace makes me grateful. The good news of the gospel teaching how sinners can be made right with God in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone is a continual source of gratitude. And when we think about our own participation in it, that grace should be even sweeter. As Paul reflects on God’s mercy in 1 Timothy 1:12–16, it culminates in the praise of 1:17. “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.” Thank God for grace.
In Christ, your sin has been erased and your shame removed.
In Christ, your brokenness has been healed and you are being made whole.
In Christ, though lost and alone, you are found and made a child of God.
In Christ, your worst works do not define you, but Christ’s works define you.
In Christ, you are not who you were, but you are a new creation.
In Christ, the ticket of your eternal destiny has been punched and your final stop is eternity with God on a renewed earth where sin is wiped away and all things have been made right.
In Christ, though you were a slave to sin and captive to darkness, you have been set free.
In Christ, today there is no condemnation, but only a hearty welcome and a warm embrace.
In Christ, you are known, loved, and God promises to be with you and for you forever.
Don’t get over being rescued through Christ’s sacrificial death and victorious resurrection for you. Don’t move past the mercy and kindness and love of God in sending Christ to do what you could never do on your own. And don’t grow calloused to the fact that God reached down into your cold, dead heart and made you alive.
Grace and Gratitude
The more we rehearse the gospel and remember God’s mercy on us, the more we experience the gratitude that comes from such grace. There’s gratitude for the grace given to us, the mercy displayed to us, and judgment withheld from us. There’s gratitude for rescue and redemption. And there’s gratitude for all the blessings we’re given now through union with Christ, as children of the Father, and those indwelt by the Spirit. We are not yet who we will be one day, but we are not who we were (Ephesians 2:1-10). Grace.
In a sermon from the week of thanksgiving in 1981, John Piper showed the connection for Paul between gratitude and grace.
“Gratitude flourishes in the sphere of grace. And that is why the play on words in 2 Corinthians 4:15 is significant. Grace is charis and gratitude is eucharistian because gratitude is a response to grace. Gratitude is the feeling of happiness you feel toward somebody who has shown you some undeserved kindness, that is, who has been gracious to you.”
Grace leads to gratitude which leads to thanksgiving. Our thanksgiving returns to the One the grace came from. “When the grace of Jesus penetrates the human heart, it rebounds back to God as gratitude. Christian gratitude is grace reflected back to God in the happiness we feel toward Jesus.”
 Tony Reinke, John Newton on the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 46.
 John Piper, “Grace, Gratitude, and the Glory of God,” 11/26/1981 https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/grace-gratitude-and-the-glory-of-god
To go deeper in biblical thanksgiving and understand how it leads us to know and enjoy God, check out my book The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of A Lost Spiritual Discipline.