How Shall I Thank God?
October 12, 2008
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Today is Thanksgiving Day. No one should be more marked by thankfulness than Christian people. In fact, the holiday itself was originated by Christian people. …
In Canada the official proclamation instituting Thanksgiving Day rings with the words of Christian faith. The proclamation said that the second Monday of October was to be set aside as a day to offer thanks to Almighty God for an abundant harvest.
Psalm 116:1-19 (ESV)
I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
 Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
 The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”
 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
 The Lord preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
 Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
 I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
 I believed, even when I spoke,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
 I said in my alarm,
“All mankind are liars.”
 What shall I render to the Lord
for all his benefits to me?
 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
 Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints.
 O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.
 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!
II Psalm 116 – a testimony of Israel’s release from slavery
Psalm 116 is a Psalm of thanksgiving. The historical setting is unknown. The author is unknown. But we know the heart of the Psalmist is filled with thanksgiving to God – v. 1, 4f, 7, 8, 12.
This Psalm was part of the “Hallel” Psalms (Psalms 113-118) that were sung at the Passover at certain points of that commemoration. Psalm 115-118 would be sung after the Passover lamb was eaten. We need to note that this Psalm was sung by Jesus the night He instituted the Lord’s Supper.
Read Psalm 116 with that first Passover in Egypt in your mind. The death angel is passing through the homes of Egypt. God is about to set the people of Israel free from 400 years of slavery and bondage. Think of this as you read verses 1-3, 4-9.
III Psalm 116 – a testimony of the redeemed
But now dear ones we go ahead 1500 years and Jesus says “this is the new covenant in my blood …” And they sang this Psalm. Now read the Psalm with the work of Christ in your mind.
Verses 1-4… 5-9, 10f, 12-14, 15-19. Amazing. Soul stirring.
Dear Christian, on this Thanksgiving Day how can you not sing this Psalm from your heart?
See where you were – v.1-4.
See where God has brought you – vs. 5-9 – all that through the death and resurrection of Christ.
See those who do not yet know Christ – 10-11
See the true call of the truly redeemed people of God – 12
See the commitment of blood bought saints of God – 13-14
See the life of those who are so blood bought – 15-19
Verse 3a with verse 8a
Verse 3c with verse 8b
Verse 3b with verse 9
Dear ones, this is the work of the cross. And what a glorious work it is. He, through His death and resurrection, takes us from death to life, verse 8a (Eph. 2:1-7), from despair to hope, verse 8b(Romans 5:1-5; Rev. 21:4), from hell to God Himself, verse 9 (I John 1:3, ).
IV Psalm 116 – a call to the non-believer
verse 1 – You say you love God. You say you believe in God. You say you agree that Jesus Christ is the Son of God … There is much that you affirm that is true, orthodox, biblical … But can you recite Psalm 116:1 as your experience? Why do you love God? Do you love God because He has allowed you to live in a country that is prosperous, that is at peace, that does not persecute you for practising your faith? All that is good, because all those things are gifts from God to you that should elicit form you a love for God. But loving God for those things and a host of other things will not put you in right standing with God at all. See what the opening verse of this Psalm says – “I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.”
This Psalm came to be regarded by the Jewish people as a Psalm that relates to their release from the Egyptian captivity. They sang it at their Passover celebrations. They expressed thanks that God heard their cries for freedom from slavery. But the whole Passover event is a picture of what Jesus Christ does for us. We are slaves to sin and He is the lamb that is slain whose blood is applied to our lives so that we will not die. And the call for mercy is not one from human bondage. This is not a call for help from bill collectors or mortgage payments. This is not about the test results from the MRI or the x-ray. The Psalmist is talking about being set free from the drudgery of work, or a nasty marriage or bad neighbours. Not at all. This is a call for release from the slavery of sin. It is a call of one who sees that his sins have enslaved him and he knows that this is his own fault and he knows that he does not deserve to be set free, that he should pay the penalty for his sin. This is the call of a man who knows that there is help nowhere if it does not come from God. He knows that sin is not something politicians can solve or bankers or marriage counsellors or pastors … Sin takes the death of the God Man Himself. But He has also seen that God is full of mercy and He calls out for help from the power and penalty of sin. He calls out for the blood of the eternal Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ to be applied to his life so that he will no longer be a slave to sin.
Dear one, what do you thank God for this morning. Can you thank Him for the forgiveness of your sins through the life and death of Jesus Christ? Are you able to thank Him for a faith that does not look at the good you have done but knows that salvation is all of grace. See verse 1 of this Psalm – the writer has called out for mercy – favour that is not deserved.
V Psalm 116 – a response of the redeemed
1)The Psalmist’s dilemma – “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?” verse 12
This is the quandary of all who have truly seen the wonders of what God has done for them. This is the real dilemma every true believer experiences. The quest for the believer is never to find something to be thankful for – never. No matter what you are going through. No matter the severity of your trial. No matter the obstacles you face, the enemies you have, the bleakness of your prospects. Our dilemma is always “how can I thank God for all that He has done for me?” Because what He has done is greater than anything I currently need Him to do. The quest for the believer is to find a proper manner in which to demonstrate gratitude for the unimaginable goodness of God to us. Dear ones, if you are a Christian and the things that we have seen in verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 are true of you, and if you are a believer, they are true of you, then you will never say “God is being less than good to me.” Never. And if that is ever your attitude then get into the Scriptures and see what grace has done.
Here are the truths that are true of you as a believer
Romans 8:16 (ESV)
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
Ephes. 2:1-10 (ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved-  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Col. 1:13 (ESV)
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
2 Peter 1:3 (ESV)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
2) But there is a real danger here – we must never think that out thanksgiving is repayment. The Psalmist is not saying “How can I pay God back?” Not in the least. We see that in the answers to the question he asks.
a) I will lift up the cup of my salvation – verse 13
i) – In the Passover the cup was lifted up and drunk from. In the Lord’s Supper we lift the cup to our lips and we drink from it. What is being said here? The way to thank God for mercy is to live in constant dependence upon God’s mercy. He fills the cup. We drink from it. He does the work. We get the benefits. He pays the ransom. We are set free. How shall I render thanks? I shall go to Him for more. I will remember that without Him I can do nothing. I will not say “thank you” for what God has done for me in the past and then live like I can do fine without Him now. We cannot do fine without Him now. This day I am completely helpless. This day, if He should choose not to forgive just the sins of today I would perish. The thanks that please God is this “O Lord, I need you today. Help me, forgive me, keep me from falling … . Do you see it dear ones? We ask these things because we cannot do them ourselves. God has done a vast amount more than we know. How shall I thank Him? I shall go back to Him and say “I need more, because I am completely hopeless and helpless without you”. And that is exactly what He desires for us to say. That is what He wants to hear. And that is what He responds to with joy and mercy and great gladness. How shall we thank God? We shall depend on His grace – all the time.
ii)- proclaim to others the wonders of God’s gracious salvation
God has been gracious to me and what shall I do? I will lift up the cup for others to see and marvel at. I will show the world what is in this cup. I will lift it up and say “Look!!”I will tell others that He is gracious still, that there is an abundance of grace, that their sins can be covered, that God cannot be out given. We will proclaim “here is the cup of salvation that is poured out for many. See the marvels of grace!!” How do we thank God for His great grace? Send others to it!! He is not stingy! He will save a vast numberless multitude!! We thank God by asking Him to do it again!! We take some benighted soul and say to our gracious God – Here is another whose sins have burdened him down. What can you do for Him? And God, who is an inexhaustible supply of free and triumphant grace will say “All who come to Me I will in no wise cast out. Of course there is grace for another”.
Dear Christian, are you truly thankful for what God has done for you? Here is what God wants you to do – Declare His glory among the nations!! Tell the world that He is gracious and mighty to save!!
Isn’t this what you do when you are truly excited about something?
– bask in His salvation. I will not take credit for a work that God alone can do and has done. I will not talk about how I came to Him. I will talk about how He came to me. I will lift up the cup. See here is what should get our attention – His blood shed for sinners!!” This is our response. Ah dear ones there is far too much me-ism among the people of God today, far, far too much. We speak of my gifts, my service, my walk with God…. The question is “What shall I render to the Lord.” Not – “how shall I draw attention to me.”
b) I will pay my vows to the Lord – verse 14 Ah dear ones. The freeness of grace never means that we will not be holy. The Gospel is freedom from the power of sin. And those who have been set free do not stay in it and wallow in it and enjoy it. When Christ came He invited people to come and die. “Take up your cross and follow me” He said, and we looked at Christ as the only One who could deal with the enormous problem of our sin and we said “Yes, Lord, we will take up our crosses. We will beat our bodies and make them slaves, so that we will not be disqualified. We will – count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philip. 3:8
We will fight the fight, finish the race, keep the faith.
Dear ones, this is what it means to be a Christian. Let the Christians of TBC resolve to be numbered with those who claim to believe in Jesus by demonstrating that faith in the work that true faith always produces. Let others deceive themselves with a false faith. We will not. Dear ones. If we are truly grateful for the immense work of grace that God has lavished on us we will never be content with sin. We came to Christ as our greatest prize. Our greatest prize is to be honoured, obeyed, followed – all the way to our deaths. What shall we render to the Lord for all His benefits? We shall render ourselves – for whatever purposes He has set for us.
Dear Christian – how does the attitude of Christ being more important to you than life itself show itself in your daily living? These words are so easy to spit out aren’t they? “O Lord I will …” The vow is so easy to make. Will you keep it?
Will you keep it when Mr. Right comes along and it turns out that he is not a believer?
Will you keep it when you can either get that new CD or put your offering in the plate when it comes by?
Will you keep it when keeping it means not fitting in, not getting the raise, not being invited to the big events…?
Will you keep it when it means working in a small church that isn’t everything you wanted it to be and there are more exciting ones, larger ones, that beckon you to come… .
Will you keep it when the Word of God pierces your heart like a knife and calls you to do the hard thing?
Dear one – what shall you render to the Lord for all is benefits? Will you keep your vows to the Lord??
c) I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving – verse 17
i) I will live a life of worship. Sacrifice in the OT was worship. And that is what we are here for. The sacrifices of thanksgiving for a new covenant saint?
Our calling is to live as priests who offer sacrifices – 1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)
you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
What are these sacrifices?
1) Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
The sacrifices of the believer is a daily life of worship to God. Read Romans 12: – 15:13 and see in there what it means to live a life of worship to God.
2) Philip. 4:18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. What we do with our money. Our attitudes, our spending, the value we put to it … .
3) Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. The way we speak. This includes our corporate worship. But it also includes how we use our tongues when we speak to others.
4) Hebrews 13:16- Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Good deed, especially sharing with the needy.
Dear ones. God has done far more than we can ask or imagine. The ache of our hearts should be “How shall I demonstrate true thankfulness for all His wonders performed for me? And the Bible tells us:
1) Live a life in constant, continuous dependence on God’s grace
2) Declare the worth of God in word and deed …
3) Take up your cross and follow Him
4) Live a life of worship – in your daily living, in the use of your money, in your speech and in compassion for the needy.
Happy Thanksgiving dear ones. May your heart and deeds ring out this day and for the remaining days of your life, in thanks to our great triune God.