Thanks be to God: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 25)

(This devotional is day twenty-five of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-28, 35-58

After an entire chapter on the resurrection, Paul ends it with two punctuating remarks. The first is that this glorious reality and hope leads to thanksgiving. If anything should lead to giving thanks, it’s reading 1 Corinthians 15. As this song reaches its climax, he thunders out, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).

And then the second punctuation ending this chapter is a call to live in light of it. Since the resurrection of Christ is true, and since we have present and future victory as participants in his resurrection, then “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (15:58). Theology leads to thanksgiving and theology leads to right living. Or, as N.T. Wright says, it leads to thanksliving.

“The decisive battle has been won; the battles we face today are part of the mopping-up of operation to implement that victory. We are called to thanksgiving, where we stand at least in the truly human relationship to the creator and the world; and we are called to thanksliving, where we behave as the free subjects of the true king, and owe the powers nothing at all.”[1]

To encourage thanksgiving and transformed living, I want to consider two pieces of good news on the resurrection. I hope we can be like Paul and erupt into an exclamation of “thanks be to God.”

Resurrected Bodies

We have the future promise of resurrected bodies reigning with Jesus.

Though much of contemporary “Christianity” today aims to give us our “best life now” and act as if all God’s good promises will come true in this life, Paul has a future-oriented (eschatological) understanding. Many of God’s promises and our hopes will only be realized when Jesus returns and all things are made new. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19).

It’s not that we have no hope in this life, or that we don’t begin to experience many wonderful blessings as believers in Christ now, but we still await the full consummation of these blessings. We do experience the Holy Spirit making us new, but as indwelling sin remains, we look to the day when sin is removed and we are fully new. We have spiritual life in Christ and communion with him, but there is coming a day when we will live in the eternal, untainted life with Christ on a new earth. We have many blessings to give thanks for here in this life, but the completion of our hope, and the best blessings, are still to come.

In this age, the Christian life is a trailer giving us a glimpse of life with Christ, but the real show has not yet been released.

The resurrection promise is that just as Christ has been raised from the dead, when he returns, we too will be resurrected like him. Whether dead or alive, at Christ’s return he will make all things new—all things right, restored, and resurrected—including us (1 Cor. 15:23-24). Though we died in Adam, we will be made alive in Christ. Like Jesus reverses the penalty of sin on us through Adam by taking our unrighteousness and giving us his righteousness (Rom. 5:12-21), so also as Adam brought corruption and death Jesus has won our eternal life, resurrection, and glorification (1 Cor. 15:21-23).

Though in this life we still suffer through sickness, pain, disabilities, weakness, weariness, physical wounds, temptations, indwelling sin, and death itself, one day we will be given perfect bodies and sinless hearts. The leased vehicle we’ve trashed in this world will be turned in and upgraded for an eternal, physical but perfect, resurrected body. Thanks be to God.

Evil Eradicated

We have the future promise of Jesus eliminating all evil and sin from the world.

Not only do we walk around in fallen physical bodies with a corrupt nature—which we do—but we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world. Creation itself is in chaos and out of whack. Evil seeks to ruin all of God’s good designs. Spiritual beings and human beings live in rebellion against God and fight to bring others into their evil kingdom.

This is partly why following Jesus in this life is so hard. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Until all evil and every spiritual power in opposition to God is removed, things will not be made right.

But we know Jesus won the victory when he stepped on the head of the serpent. The battle has been won. Victory is sure. And before too long the victory earned will be a victory enacted. It will be fully carried out. Every enemy of God, and anything opposed to God or contrary to God’s perfect designs will be wiped out (1 Cor. 15:24-28). This is the end-time mopping up of things by Jesus, as making things right includes making us new, restoring the kingdom-environment in which we’ll live, and removing any evil obstacles to living “happily ever after” with our God as His people in His place. 

As Paul writes, the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:26). Death still sinks its claws into us. It’s the looming cloud over every frail human life. It’s a sharp and deep pain intruding into earthly life. But death is not ultimate. It has been defeated and will soon be destroyed.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

We wait for that day. But in the meantime, we give thanks. Give thanks for the victory we have in Christ today and the blessings enjoyed through him. And give thanks knowing the fulfillment of many of God’s promises and the consummation of these blessings is still to come. They are ours, and they are on the way. Thanks be to God. Give thanks because of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:57), and then live in light of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:58).


Footnotes


[1] N.T. Wright, Following Jesus (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014), 22.

Thanksgiving and Union with Christ: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 24)

(This devotional is day twenty-four of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Ephesians 1:3-14

When my wife and I married in 2012, we joined our lives together as one. Wedding rings symbolize this unbroken bond of union where I belong to her and she belongs to me. There’s not only the joy of companionship, but there’s also oneness through the covenant of marriage. What’s mine is now hers, and what’s hers is now mine. We not only take on one another’s assets, but we also take on one another’s debts. Her family becomes my family, and my family becomes her family. Even our emotional lives overlap because the things that burden my wife burden me. Spouses share sorrows, successes, and celebrations.

One of the greatest doctrines in the Christian faith is union with Christ. When we trust in Jesus, we’re united with him as one. Our identity becomes wrapped up in who we are in him.

Continue reading Thanksgiving and Union with Christ: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 24)

Three Dangers of Spiritual Forgetfulness: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 23)

(This devotional is day twenty-three of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Deuteronomy 8

The Bible is full of admonitions to remember God, what He’s taught us, and what He’s done for us. Through remembrance, we hold on to what we’ve learned in the past and live in light of it in the present. Throughout the Bible, God’s people face future fears by recalling God’s former faithfulness. Remembrance stirs up greater trust in God, it brings to mind what He’s done and said in the past, and it reminds us what we’ve learned from God. But the Bible also has many warnings not to forget.[1] 

Continue reading Three Dangers of Spiritual Forgetfulness: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 23)

Ingratitude Leading to Idolatry: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 22)

(This devotional is day twenty-two of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read 1 Samuel 8

I’m not afraid to admit; I’m a fan of country music. One song from the 90’s (the greatest musical decade) was “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks. The song reassures the heartbroken that sometimes not getting what you want, or not having your prayers answered, might be a gift. Garth’s lyrics tell the story of a married man going to his hometown football game and running into his high school flame. The future he once desired comes into mind and he’s struck by how much thankful he is he didn’t get what he wanted. He realizes what fell through and was disappointing and painful, became a blessing leading to something greater: his wife. The chorus says these famous words, and it helps if you read them with a bit of Garth Brooks twang.

Continue reading Ingratitude Leading to Idolatry: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 22)

Some Stories Never Get Old: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 21)

(This devotional is day twenty-one of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Psalm 118

As a kid, one of my favorite things about holidays was how our family would gather and share stories. I would sit back and listen to them spin tales. A new one might be sprinkled in on occasion, but usually they rehashed the same old stories, but we would laugh as we relived the memories. As an adult, it’s still one of the best things when our family gets together. My sister is a good storyteller. She gets very animated and exaggerates stories a little more every year. But somehow, I never get tired of these stories we tell again and again, usually at one of my parent’s expense.

Continue reading Some Stories Never Get Old: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 21)

Give Thanks Together: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 20)

(This devotional is day twenty of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Psalm 95

We often think of spiritual disciplines only in personal, individual terms. I should read my Bible. I should pray. I should give thanks. This is certainly important. Some people neglect personal habits and only study Scripture or pray when they’re gathering with other believers. Neither gutter is healthy. We need to prioritize seeking to know God on our own and with others. As we learn about and practice thanksgiving, we do it together. Doing so not only exalts God and emboldens our faith, but it encourages other believers.

Continue reading Give Thanks Together: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 20)

Why Christians Should be Thankful: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 19)

(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.)

Read 1 Timothy 1:12–17; Ephesians 2:1-10; 2 Corinthians 4:15

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

Continue reading Why Christians Should be Thankful: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 19)

The Sun Will Come Up Again: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 18)

(This devotional is day eighteen of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Psalm 30

One thing parenting is teaching me is not to overreact. It’s easy to freak out in the moment, whether in anger or fear as small things feel mammoth. My daughter spills her drink on the floor (again), and my frustration is bigger than her mistake. Or she has a cold that sounds bad, and the internet—the great anxiety-inducer—makes us think she has a severe illness, so we elevate it to a code-red.

Continue reading The Sun Will Come Up Again: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 18)

A Thanksgiving Meal: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 17)

(This devotional is day seventeen of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Matthew 26:26–29; Hebrews 8:6–13

The Lord’s Supper. Communion. The Eucharist. The New Covenant meal Jesus inaugurated and served up to his disciples on the night of his betrayal is called many things. Whatever terms your church tradition uses, this sacrament (or ordinance) is a visible sign and seal of the gospel. Since the church’s inception, Christian’s have regularly celebrated it together in local churches to visibly proclaim the gospel and feed on Christ.

Continue reading A Thanksgiving Meal: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 17)

Training Our Tongue to Say Thanks: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 16)

(This devotional is day sixteen of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Psalm 33

I have a wonderful three-year-old daughter. The early days of her life consisted of feeding her, changing her, and trying anything to make her sleep. Then she became much more interactive. It felt like every week she learned new skills, sentences, and behaviors. Some words came naturally: mine, now, and I want to. Others took more work. Words like please and thank you needed encouraged and reinforced.

Continue reading Training Our Tongue to Say Thanks: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 16)