ETERNALLY GRATEFUL

Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969.

Most of us are familiar with astronaut Neil Armstrong's historic statement as he stepped onto the moon's surface: "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

 

But few know about the first meal eaten there. Buzz Aldrin had brought aboard the spacecraft a tiny Communion kit provided by his church. Aldrin sent a radio broadcast to Earth asking listeners to contemplate the events of that day and give thanks. Then, in radio blackout for privacy … [Aldrin] read, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit." Silently, he gave thanks and partook.

 

That’s a wonderful story, isn’t it? Gratitude for God is given, not just on this planet, but even on the moon.

 

Often when it comes to the Thanksgiving holiday, we spend our time thanking God for the wonderful things He has given to us – things like jobs, homes, food, and many other things that help to make our lives better. But today we want to focus on being grateful to God for something much greater – in fact, it is the same focus that Buzz Aldrin had – we want to be eternally grateful, and we do that by placing our focus on what Jesus has done for us.

 

Perhaps no other Scripture text summarizes God’s great gift to us more than Romans 5:6-11.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God. – Romans 5:6-11

Here we find four very specific and wonderful gifts from God to be thankful for.

1. THANK GOD FOR HIS PERFECT TIMING

The Bible says, When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time.

Now when was the right time for Christ’s appearing? It was, “When we were utterly helpless.” Jesus came at a time in history when the world was realizing their helplessness. Those who were Jews had been recognizing their need for a very long time, and had been looking forward to the promised Messiah.

In Galatians Paul informs us: But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. – Galatians 4:4

So there was a point in history when it was the right time for Jesus to appear. But there is also a perfect point in your personal history for Jesus to appear. When is that? It is when you are “utterly helpless” and don’t know where to turn. It is when you find yourself looking for answers and no one is even listening to your questions. It is when your life has come to a standstill and you don’t know where to turn and you know that things aren’t going to get any better unless something changes and very soon! Jesus comes, when you are “utterly helpless” and are ready to recognize your need of Him.

I am hoping that this Thanksgiving, there are some of you here in this group who have come to that point and are ready to accept Jesus’ offer. Jesus can come into your life at any time – morning, noon, or night – He can come on a weekday, or the weekend – He is willing to come to you at the exact moment that you are ready to receive Him. And for that fact, I am extremely grateful today.

We worship a God who is willing to meet us at the point we are ready – He does not force us, or even insist that we come into a relationship with Him. But what He does do is make the offer, and then allow us to decide when the time is right.

The next time you are in a bookstore, walk over to the section labeled “self-help,” and look at the people who are standing there, buying these books and reading about how to deal with the problems they have. They think by reading a book, reading some new little philosophy, some little key, some little secret, they can improve their lives.

The sooner you admit you are helpless to deal with your problems on your own, the sooner you can allow God to give you the power to deal with them.

2. THANK GOD FOR HIS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

God doesn’t love us because we are lovable. God loves us because it’s His character and nature to love sinners.

In fact, if you want to contrast our condition, look at God’s supernatural character. Love demonstrated by Jesus’ death – that’s His character. God demonstrated his love in that Jesus died for us.

We need to consider an interesting topic for just a moment.

Now, no one is likely to die for a good person...

Now there have been people who have died for good people through the years, but not many are willing to do that.

There are a couple of questions I want you to ask yourself right now. Number one is this – who would you die for? If I were to ask you, “Who are those people in your life that, given the opportunity where either they would die, or you would die, you would step in and die in their place?”

Is there anybody like that in your life? For me, there are some people like that. I would like to think I would die for my wife and my children, and maybe some of my closest friends. But if I’m being honest with myself, I’ll have to admit that my list is not very long. Sometimes, people will die for good people, but not very often.

The second question is totally different. Think about this one – who would die for you? Is there anybody you are absolutely certain, given the choice, given the opportunity where you die or they die, who would step in for you? Can you think of anybody like that? That list may be totally different than your first list.

I don’t know the answer to the first question – only you know that. But I can give everybody in this room an answer to question number two – Jesus. Jesus has already done it for you.

It blows my mind to think if you had been the only sinner on planet Earth who needed someone to die for you, He still would have died just for you or just for me.

And to top it all off, God says that Jesus died for us when we were still sinners. He didn’t demand we get our act together, or that we become holy, or that we keep all the commandments. He gave His Son for us unconditionally, before we had ever even made a move toward Him.

That unconditional love that God has offered to us is one of the reasons that I am eternally grateful to Him this Thanksgiving, and I hope that you can say the same.

3. THANK GOD FOR HIS PERSONAL SACRIFICE

Do you know that Jesus died in your place so you wouldn’t suffer punishment?

v. 8: But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us…

Jesus died as our substitute.

v. 9: And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's judgment.

There are two words I want you to circle here – the words “blood” and “judgment.” There are two elements to the death of Christ pointed out here.

First of all, as our sinless substitute, Jesus satisfied the demand of God. You ask, “Well, what was the demand of God?” The demand of God from the beginning was that for the forgiveness of sin to take place, there had to be blood shed. The Bible teaches that the shedding of blood and the forgiveness of sins go together in the mind and heart of God.

In fact, we can say that according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified by sprinkling with blood. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. – Hebrews 9:22

So, God had a demand that blood would be shed for sins to be forgiven, and when Jesus died as my substitute, He was taking my place, and it was His blood that was shed.

Remember those questions when I asked, “Who would you die for?” The fact that Jesus died for you and for me is an amazing statement about the depth and the height and the breadth of God’s love.

You and I are guilty of the death of Jesus Christ. It was my sin that killed Him. It was as if I had that hammer in my hand pounding those nails into his flesh. It was as if my hands fashioned that crown and put it on his head. It was as if I held that spear that thrust up into his heart.

You and I are guilty, but God loves us so much he was willing to allow Jesus to die for us as our substitute. That’s amazing when you think about it – He satisfied the demand of God.

The second thing I want you to see is as our sinless substitute Jesus absorbed the wrath of God. Let’s look at verse 9 in the New American Standard Bible, which has a more literal translation here – Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

When I say Jesus is our substitute, what I’m saying is we believe in something called the “substitutionary blood atonement of Jesus Christ.” This means that when Jesus died, He became my substitute.

Now if anyone deserves to die for their sins, it’s me and it’s you, but Jesus stood in our place – He became our substitute. Jesus Christ died in our place and He absorbed the wrath of God.

Now if we can’t work up some gratitude for that, we’re beyond all help. You and I must be eternally grateful for what Jesus has done for us on the Cross.

4. THANK GOD FOR HIS ETERNAL FRIENDSHIP

[In her book Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit, author and speaker Beth Moore recalls a particularly insightful moment in her life:

"I will never forget watching an evening talk show featuring the story of the parents and killer of a young college student – The killer was his best friend. The weapon was high alcohol content inside a speeding automobile. …What made this particular feature prime-time viewing? The parents had forgiven the young driver… And if that was not enough, they had taken him in as their own. This young man sat at the table in the chair which was once occupied by their only son. He slept in the son's bed. He worked with the victim's father, teaching seminars on safety. He shared their fortune and supported their causes. He spoke about the one he had slain in ways only someone who knew him intimately could have. … Why did these parents do such a thing? Because it gave them peace. The interviewer was amazed; I was amazed. I kept trying to put myself in the parents' position—but I could not. Then, as the tears streamed down my cheeks, I heard the Spirit of God whisper to my heart and say: "No wonder you cannot relate. You have put yourself in the wrong position. You, my child, are the driver." God was the parent who not only forgave, but also invited me to sit at His table in the space my Savior left for me. As a result, I have peace.]

That story so closely represents the way that God has befriended us, even though our sins took the life of His Son.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God. – Romans 5:11

God wants to be your friend – He proved it by being willing to come into your life as soon as you were ready for Him, He proved it by loving you unconditionally, and by sending His Son to die for you.

We thank God today, because He wants to be our friend, both in the here and now, and the there and then. You see, God’s offer of friendship lasts for all of eternity.

CONCLUSION:

I remember as a child that my favorite part of Thanksgiving was the big meal we always had planned. And to be honest with you, in my carnal nature, that is STILL the thing I look forward to the most.

But when I examine what God has offered to me, and I really begin to understand it, my focus on Thanksgiving begins to change from what I can stuff into my face, to the spiritual food that God has given me for my soul.

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving, let’s not forget to be eternally grateful for all that God has done, what He is doing presently, and what He will do in the future.


For more sermons like this, please visit The Pastor's Helper