What is the Meaning of Ephesians 5.20

“Always Give Thanks to the Father for Everything in Jesus’ Name”

Ephesians 5:20

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 5.20

Ephesians chapter 5 this morning once again. We’ll continue on in the series…and you’re saying … “but it’s Thanksgiving, pastor!” Well, look at the next verse, Eph. 5 verse 20.

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And having dealt with alcohol in verse 18 and music in verse 19, in the providence of God, we come to verse 20.

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We should be filled by the Holy Spirit and an evidence of that is verse 20 that we are…

Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

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I do find it interesting that we happen to come to this verse on Thanksgiving weekend! It is encouraging to me as a pastor and a preacher to have our Sunday’s so organized by the Lord where we have our holiday schedule and our preaching schedule arrive at the same topic! We will take this as a praise to the Lord this morning.

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So, this is a passage that gives evidences of being filled by the Holy Spirit. Verse 18, we are not to be drunk with wine, but we are to be filled by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit fills us and as we saw from Colossians 3:16, he fills us with the word of Christ which is to have a rich dwelling within us.

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That word of Christ is Christ in his person and work. Who he is in himself and what he has done for us at the cross and resurrection and all the glorious benefits of that gospel … This is what is to fill us or control us. It’s what the Holy Spirit is attempting to do in our lives. He is attempting to control us with this glorious redemptive message of Christ. That’s b/c He knows that it’s Christ and His gospel that will continue to sanctify us, not emphasizing a list of do’s and don’t’s. To be saved, you need the gospel. To grow in Christ, you need that same gospel.

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As we come to verse 20, we have each member of the Trinity at work. The Holy Spirit controls us so that we always give thanks to God the Father in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit…controls…. And we give thanks to the Father in the name of Jesus. Each member the Trinity is at work.

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In our verse for this morning, in verse 20, we have four things that describe our thankfulness. So this tells us how important thankfulness is. I mean, it’s an evidence of being filled by the Holy Spirit and 4 things describe it…let’s look at verse 20 here …

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Ephesians 5:20, first we have when to give thanks … The very first word of verse 20 tells us when…. “always.” And secondly, for what are we to give thanks? The answer to that is in the verse, do you see it there? “For all things.”

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And now for the third one I will go out of order of the verse… To whom are we to give thanks? At the end of verse … giving thanks for all things to God even the Father… or, to God the Father.

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And fourthly and finally this morning in whose name are we to give thanks? We are to give thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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And what the passage is saying to us this morning is this: Christians filled by the Holy Spirit with the glorious redemption of Christ always give thanks to God the Father for everything in Jesus’ name.

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Thankfulness is an evidence of being filled by the Holy Spirit with the word of Christ. The implication of that’ll we’ll investigate from this verse is that true thankfulness that honors God is impossible for the unsaved.

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So, I’d like to preach this Thanksgiving message on Eph. 5:20 … “Always Give Thanks to the Father for Everything in Jesus’ Name”

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First, when to give thanks: always

  1. When to Give Thanks: Always

Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks for all things

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So when are we to give thanks? We are to give thanks always. At all times, we are to give thanks. Now, I find it interesting that it is Paul was telling us this. Why is it interesting? Because of what is going on in his life right now. Where is he when he writes this epistle? He is in prison. Eph. 3:1 and Eph. 4:1 both tell us that he is a prisoner of the Lord; a prisoner of Christ Jesus. He is a prisoner because of his testimony for the Lord.

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And yet at the same time he can tell the Ephesians, who are not in prison, to be thankful. In fact in his prayer in Ephesians 1:16 he says that he does not cease giving thanks for the Ephesian believers, no doubt because of God’s choice of them.

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  1. Thankfulness defined

So, if somebody in prison can tell us to give thanks, I’d say that that exhortation has little more weight. Imagine if somebody in prison said that he was constantly thankful and that you should be to! You would listen to those words little more carefully and that’s of course exactly what we have here.

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So what are we always to be doing? Giving thanks. Now, what is that?

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Well there is the world’s way of defining it and there is Scripture’s way of defining it. Or as Jonathan Edwards would call I the natural gratitude verses gracious gratitude. Or as I will define it as natural thankfulness versus real thankfulness.

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So I will define it here and get more into this a little later in the message. But natural thankfulness is what lost people can have and is what we rightly feel sometimes, too. It is an emotion of appreciation for what you have. This is natural and good, though many times selfish. This would be like the hypocritical Pharisee who stands up in Luke 18:11 and pray thus with himself “God, I thank you that I am not like other people.” And I bet he was truly thankful in the sense I’m talking about, though a hypocrite that he wasn’t sinful.

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Or it’s like some lost people can even say, which isn’t necessarily wrong in itself … I’m thankful that I have it better than the guy in Zimbabwe or I’m thankful that my marriage or my family is not like this other marriage or family that I know… Or, I feel thankful for this cup of coffee on this cold day.

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This is a thankfulness that even lost people have, and some of this thankfulness we should have as well….especially the cup of coffee on the cold day (or hot chocolate, if you prefer…). I’m sorry if you don’t drink coffee.

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But this kind of thankfulness won’t sustain you in times of trial. It won’t sustain you when the marriage goes sour or when the family is not what you would like it to be or when you are in need, or when you don’t have a cup of coffee (or hot chocalate)! Believers need a deeper thankfulness of this.

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Only believers can have what I’m calling real thankfulness. So natural thankfulness is an emotion of appreciation for what you have. Believers and unbelievers can have this. But real thankfulness, I define as …. an act of praise to God for all things that are in keeping with His work and character. Real thankfulness is an act of praise to God for all things that are in keeping with His work and character. This is when a believer gives thanks for who God is and what he has accomplished in Christ. This is giving God praise not just during trials, but giving God thanks for even the trial itself that has come because of a trial’s design of producing godliness in the believer.

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Natural thankfulness on the other hand can only go so far … and it can be quite self-centered. I feel thankful that I have this thing… I have an emotion in my heart that appreciates the things that I have. That is not real, Christian thankfulness by itself. Christian thankfulness is an activity. It is an activity of praise. It is an act of praise to God for all things that are in keeping with His work and character.

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I hope that we can see this morning that there is nothing good that we have not received, including hard times. But we should see this morning, too, that we have nothing really good to give to God except thanks. If we give to God our lives, which is what he expects … You know, it’s Him who’s getting the raw deal on that one. But our praise and thanks … You know, we don’t even properly do that, do we? Yet in His own grace and for His own purposes, He receives our thanks and praise and delights in them.

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TRANS: But our problem is, we too often grumble instead of actively giving thanks.

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  1. Opposite of grumbling; story of children of Israel

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We’re just like the children of Israel; too often and we grumble and complain.

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This is just the way it was in Numbers chapter 11. The beginning of this chapter is quite convicting. Listen to this … Numbers 11:1 Now the people [of Israel] became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

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Did you get it?… “They became like those who complain of adversity.” Those haunting words, they became like those who complained during times of misfortune times of trial…. “Oh, like those people, eh!” I get it…wait a second, that’s me sometimes! And God’s anger is kindled!?

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Well, we see the Lord’s mindset on this. And they also complained about their food.

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ILL: And I remember that I would tell the story of the Israelites and their complaining about food each summer when I was a camp counselor Bob Jones University summer camps. Each week for 10 weeks we’d have a new set of campers come in. These preteen and teenage campers would eat in the dining common while at BJ for their sports camp or science camp. And I was the head counselor for two summers and I would preach at these kids from this passage in Numbers 11 right before their first meal.

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I would tell these kids about the Israelites and how they were remembering the fish and the cucumbers, melons the leaks and the onions and garlic that was in Egypt. But God had miraculously rescued them out of the land of Egypt and began feed them miraculous manna that tasted like, well, coriander seeds.

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And God’s people were growing sick of God’s provision. They didn’t want to eat the manna anymore. God would rain down that manna miraculously on the ground each night for them to eat it… But they grew tired with God’s provision. So they complained about the food.

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And you remember that God caused a wind to blow some quail and it caused the quail to fall beside the camp. And the people spent all day and night gathering the quail and while the meat was still in between their teeth, the Lord’s anger was kindled against the people and the Lord struck the people with the very severe plague.

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And then I would tell these kids … “Alright now, be thankful for your food. Let’s go to supper.”

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We’re not to grumble like that! We are to be thankful.

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TRANS: So, instead of grumbling, offer continual thanks.

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  1. Giving thanks continually

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Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks for all things

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So there is never a time for which a word of thankfulness is not warranted. There is always room at all times for a word thanks to God.

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Even in times of anxiety and stress and worry if we let our requests be made known unto God with thankfulness, then the peace of God will guard our hearts, just like Philippians 4:6 is.

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And in times of peace and plenty, we ought to render to God praise for His bounty to us, since he has caused his rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

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TRANS: And as well in times of trial…So always give thanks. And now secondly, from what do we give thanks? We give thanks for everything.

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  1. For What to Give Thanks: Everything

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Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks for all things

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Of course, this does not mean that we thank God for sin. That is obvious in Paul’s writings. We should not give thanks for things that God is not the author of. God is not the author of our sin. And he himself does not tempt any man.

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“For all things” is qualified when Paul says we ought to give thanks for all things in the name of Jesus. In other words, it must be according to who he is and what He has done. And he does not sin nor cause us to sin, either. And so we should not thank God for our or other people’s sin or for things that displease Him. Remember, real thanksgiving is an act of praise to God for all things that are in keeping with what? … with His work and character.

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TRANS: We can give thanks for everything that is in keeping with who He is. And trials in our life can be used by God to produce godliness in us.

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  1. Thankfulness during trial, b/c of Christlikeness

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Give thanks for everything! … Let me illustrate that point … [1]Two men were passing through the field in the country when they were charged by a bull. They started for the nearest fence; but it was soon apparent that they could not make it before the bull would be upon them.

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One said to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!” But John answered, “I can’t. I never made a public prayer in my life.” “But you must,” said his companion, “the bull will soon be upon us. Pray John, pray quickly!”

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“All right,” said John [with the hooves stampeding closer and closer…], “I’ll give you the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: `O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful!’ ”

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Can we really be truly thankful in every situation? Or does someone have to trick you into praying that?

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The Bible teaches us that someone who has trusted Christ for salvation can learn to be truly thankful, even in times of trial … And even for the trial itself …why? Because they have learned to enjoy a Christlike character above easy circumstances. You will be thankful for the trial itself when you have learned to enjoy a Christlike character above easy circumstances

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This is why James can write to us and say in James 1:2-4 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 [because you know] that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

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Consider it all joy when we have trials … how? Because of what we know. Because we know that testing produces endurance and endurance makes us a complete person, a Christlike person. And so there is an assumption in this, isn’t there? Assumed in this is that Christlikeness is a huge goal for us.

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In other words, if Christlikeness is not a goal in your life, you won’t be able to consider it all joy when you encounter a trial because you won’t care that the testing of your faith produces endurance and the endurance makes you complete. The trial might not be fun and joyous, but really, in the end you can actually praise God for it.

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So first you must desire to be like Christ and when you do, it will be much easier for you to give thanks for the trials themselves.And either way whether you enjoy it or not and whether you give thanks for it or not, God is going to use it to make you like Christ, if you are his.

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TRANS: So, we are to give thanks at all times. And we are to give thanks for all things. Now, who are we to think? We are to thank God the Father.

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  1. Whom To Thank: God the Father

Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

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This is the one to whom Jesus taught us to pray when he said that we are to pray, “to our Father who is in heaven.”

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1 Corinthians 11:1-3 teaches us that there is submission within the Godhead. God the Father is the head of Christ. God the Son, Christ Jesus, came to do the will of the Father. He points us to our Heavenly Father. So we are to thank the Father, specifically.

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TRANS: So we are always to give thanks to the Father for everything. Now, in what name are we to think Him?

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  1. In What Name: Jesus’ Authority (Him and His Finished Work)

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You say, “Why do I need a name by which to thank the Father? Can’t I just approach the Father and thank Him?”

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Do you flippantly come before the throne of God?

Do you think you have a right in yourself to come before him?

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Could you waltz into the office of a member of Parliament without being allowed in by his secretary? Could you waltz into the Prime Minister’s office without being allowed special entrance?

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If we have this reverence for sinners who have no standing before God and are themselves vile in God’s sight and worthy only of damnation, how much more do we need special permission to enter into God’s presence?

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My friend, you have no right in God’s presence in yourself! In your own authority, shall you dare present your sinful self before His throne?

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No brothers and sisters, we need an authority, we need a name. We need an entrance….and Jesus has joyfully provided that entrance. We are to thank God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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It is Jesus’ name that we call upon for salvation (Acts 2:21) … It is Jesus name that we put our trust in (John 1:12) … We are justified in the name of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:11) … And we are forgiven in Jesus’ name (1 John 2:12).

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The “name” of someone in Scripture refers to either the person himself, his work and character, or his reputation, or authority.

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And so we don’t simply tack on the words “in Jesus name” after every prayer as if we are adding a kind of magical formula that enhances our prayer in some way.

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If someone were to arrive at your doorstep and they say to you, “I come to you in the name of Stephen Harper.” You would know that he came to you by Mr. Harper’s authority. Just like when Peter commanded the lame man in Acts 3:6 “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

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And then the Sanhedrin asked disciples about this very miracle in next the chapter, in Acts 4:7 … “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”

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In other words, by what authority have you done this? So to thank God the Father in Jesus’ name is to come before our Heavenly Father in Jesus’ authority, not our own. Jesus has commanded us to pray, … “pray then in this way ‘our Father.’” Jesus said He choose his disciples so that John 15:16 “… whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”

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If you truly come to the Father by the authority of Jesus Christ and you speak in such a way that reflects the authority of Jesus … In other words, you’re not distorting Jesus nor his character or works … If you are praying for something that is in keeping with his name and you come by His authority, then it will be given to you.”

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In other words, you will always receive a ‘yes’ if you pray what’s in the Bible. It might be wait, but it will never be a ‘no’ that you receive from His throne.

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But our prayers and our thanks to the Father must be given to Him by the authority of Jesus’ name.

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Well, what authority does Jesus have? Matthew 28:18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

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Christians filled by the Holy Spirit with the glorious redemption of Christ always give thanks to the Father for all things on the basis of Jesus’ authority.

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Unbelievers can’t have true thankfulness

And the rebel who turns his back on God because he is still in his sin cannot express this thankfulness to God. He cannot express true thankfulness the way that God has designed in Christ Jesus.

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Romans 1:21 teaches this. Paul in this passage is explaining the consequences of the natural condition of man in his rebellion against God. And he writes earlier in the passage that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

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And then he says of people in their natural condition of rebellion … He says of these people Romans 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

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And so this proves my point this morning that rebels in their natural condition apart from God cannot give God thanks. Man in his rebellion has chosen to reject knowledge of God, and hold down that truth, and they refuse giving true thanks to God. “They did not honor him as God or give thanks.” They didn’t do that.

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Like Bob Jones Sr., the founder of Bob Jones University said, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

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If a man does not offer sacrifices of thanksgiving in his heart to God, that man is literally without hope. Actually praising God for all things that are in keeping with His work and character is impossible for the unbeliever.

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And so lost people don’t lack natural thankfulness but true thankfulness.

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Natural Gratitude

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.

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One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.[2]

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This is natural thankfulness.

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ILL: Have you ever stood before your refrigerator with yet another Tupperware full of food and have been frustrated because you can’t find an open place to put it? How you have grumbled!!

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Even all the lost rebels against God can see that that is wrong and that they should have an emotion of thankfulness in their hearts.

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But that very thankfulness doesn’t usually rise up during times of trial. Though they might be able to muster up some sort of “count your blessings” mindset and be able to have some feelings of thankfulness….but to purposefully thank … to praise God for a trial … this is Christian thankfulness. This is a thankfulness that is rooted in the character and the work of God himself.

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And so, it’ different for those who are truly born again. We’re to thank God in the name of Jesus…because of what He has done. This is true thankfulness.

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True Thankfulness

So true thankfulness is an act of praise to God for all things that are in keeping with His work and character.

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And the foundation and the authority of this thankfulness is the person and work of Christ. We come by his authority. How much authority does he have? All of the authority in heaven and earth. But how did he get that authority?

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His work!

Because of his work! Like a man has never done before nor will do again, he infinitely humbled himself. Though splendorous in eternal glory, the King of the Universe, He came and was born and laid in a feeding trough. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh.

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And he was humiliated and died the death of sinful flesh though he himself was sinless. And took upon himself the wrath of God …. And on the cross we are told of the Great Exchange: our sin was credited to Jesus and the infinite anger of God that was due for our sin was poured out on Jesus. And that’s not all of the Great Exchange, there is the other side… The very perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is then credited to our account and we no longer bear our own sin and we are credited with the very righteousness of Christ. And we are counted to be righteous in God’s law court, sinful though we may be, because the price has been paid.

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And this is a reality, only those who have desired in their heart of hearts to turn from that which he hates and to cling to him. It is true for the one who hates his sin yes and for he who hates even his very own life and has clung to Christ. “He has sold everything in order to buy that precious pearl.”

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And this is the glorious foundation upon which we give thanks to God the Father. We come to the Father by the authority of Jesus in His righteousness, not our own.

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So we, in the name of none other than the Lord of glory who has died and who has been raised from the dead and we can now give thanks for all things in his name even when we don’t get our nice iced tea on a hot day or in times of trial ….

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Because who shall bring a charge against me? No one! God has justified me. Who could condemn me? No one! Christ Jesus has died and has been raised and he is at the right hand of God and is always interceding for me.

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What trial will come into my life…. What tribulation and distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or disaster or sword … What could separate me from the love of Christ?

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….Nay my friend, nothing! Why not! Because in all these things I overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved me…. For I am convinced [are you?] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

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…and thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 5.20

I am not worthy of the least of all of the mercies and of the truth that God has shown to me …2 Sam. 7:18 … Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house that you have brought me to this point of receiving these great things?

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And you so glorious and high, O! our God… It seems he risked defiling his own holiness that he might look upon and concern Himself with us … He humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the Earth (Ps. 113:6).

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And to think then that he would give His precious Son for sinners who would have defiled Him if they could … And he opens his fountain for us in his grace and forms a covenant with his people and has His own Son as the mediator of that covenant … with great and precious promises that are so full of grace and glory, and peace in trial and joy in service and encouragements from His Spirit along the way and His word that sustains us …

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Friend, in your earthly pilgrimage, make it a point to honor your heavenly Father by the universal authority of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ … and praise Him “Because His lovingkindness is better than life [itself].”

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And count on it for all of eternity …. And “when this passing world is done” you will sing with those four living creatures in John’s vision “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

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342 When This Passing World is Done!

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Go to BibleTrove.com Home Page from What is the Meaning of Ephesians 5.20

Go to New Testament Books Page

Go to Ephesians Main Page

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  1. The making of a minister: the autobiography of Clarence E. Macartney, 148.

  2. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/harvard_mental_health_letter/2011/november/in-praise-of-gratitude

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