Thanksgiving, a Vital Sign
By Gary Amirault
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life (zoen aionion in Greek) and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24, KJV)
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (1 John 3:14, KJV)
These two scriptures certainly define what happened to me when Jesus became real to me on Valentine's Day, 1985.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5:17, KJV)
What happened that day inside of me was not a new philosophy of life. It was not joining a new organization with a cause I could put some energy into. I wasn't on drugs. I wasn't brainwashed in some cult. I didn't have an adrenalin rush from performing some great feat. It was a new life: "everlasting life" or "zoen aionion" in the Greek.
Personally, I think the translation everlasting for the Greek aionion misses much of the fullness of the meaning of that word. Jesus' life is full of quality, full of riches, not merely on the other side of the grave, but in life right here on earth. It was full of joy, full of peace, full of love. And when I was first saved, I didn't have to wait until after the grave to receive these things. During that early period I could truly love my enemies. As a matter of fact, my enemies simply disappeared! I had none. I naturally loved everyone without any effort of my own--but unfortunately, it didn't last.
Graditude, A Spiritual Indicator
Another outstanding change that occurred that day is that I instantly became extremely gratefull for even the smallest of things. I recall one day looking at a single piece of toilet paper through tears of graditude for such a wonderful product. What were once insignificant things in my former life took on a new life of their own. Everything was new, fresh and exciting. What once had no value to me all of a sudden became precious. And the things I coveted before my conversion seemed to lose much of their luster.
Before my rebirth I wasn't grateful for anything. Why should I be grateful for something I earned? Maybe I should pat myself on the back (and I did a lot of that), but be grateful and express thanks? There was little room in my heart for such things. What I expressed was pride in my accomplishments.
I believe because most Christians have been taught that this "zoen aionion" is something we get on the other side of the grave, many miss out on the fact that it is very much available on this side of the grave. Furthermore, many Christians who do believe this high quality of life is available on this side of the grave are not aware that this life can be lost or quenched so easily. Oh, I'm not talking about losing our life on the other side of the grave, I believe that is secure. I'm talking about this side of the grave. We can sow to the flesh and reap corruption or we can sow to the Spirit and reap "aionion zoen."
It is possible to walk this earth and be dead according to Jesus (Matt. 8:22). It is even possible to be a Christian and still be dead if one is carnally minded (Rom. 8:9-15; 1 Cor. 3:1-7).
While eternal life is truly eternal on the other side of the grave, we can grieve the Holy Spirit here and now by not abiding in Him. When we do this, we lose the ability to bear this supernatural fruit of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me, the enemy of our soul seems to have an easy time of getting us off track, especially in America with all its emphasis on materialism. We often sow to the flesh and aren't even aware of it.
Our natural body has built within it indicators to let us know things are not right. For instance, a temperature of 104 lets us know something is wrong. The body has many other warning signals. In the same way, our Spirit also has warning signals when something is wrong in our spirit.
I have discovered that when I lose that attitude of thanksgiving and gratefulness, that I have gone back into the flesh somehow. Acts of selfishness begin to manifest in me. Rather than being content with all things, I begin to find lack in my life. I also begin to try to fulfill that lack by trying to manipulate circumstances and people to fulfill those needs rather than going to God for them and waiting on Him to supply all my needs according to His riches and glory. Grumbling and fault-finding increases.
A grateful heart is an indicator that one is flowing in His Spirit. Being content where God has you at the moment, being joyful in even dire circumstances, is a sign of being in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, or sowing to the Spirit. Graditude releases joy, and joy releases spiritual strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. (Neh. 8:10)
In the Spirit, one can go through extremely trying circumstances still maintaining great faith and even joy. And this great faith sometimes produces miracles. I am reminded of the story about Paul and Silas singing praises while in prison. An earthquake opened the prison doors thus setting them free.
Keeping Our Hearts Clean
Years ago, I had a smoking problem. I went to a how-to-quit-smoking program at a local hospital. Part of the program involved looking at black lungs doctors brought in to show us what we were doing to our bodies. One doctor introduced himself as nothing more than a glorified plumber. He told us that almost all the problems in our bodies stem from a blockage in one of the several systems that run through our bodies. His job, he told us, was to find where the blockage was and to unclog it. He was a glorified Rotor-Rooter man.
Sowing to the flesh produces a clog in the flow of the spirit of God preventing us from bearing the fruit of the spirit:
"The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other" (Gal. 514-26, NIV).
If we want to inherit the kingdom, that is to manifest what Jesus has already given us a measure of, we must abide in Him, we must sow to the Spirit. We must flow in His Spirit and we must let His Spirit flow through us.
"Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me" (John 14:11).
We, too, must abide in Him and He must abide in us if we are going to produce the works Jesus wants in the earth. If we sow to the flesh we create a blockage. Abraham, our father in faith, dug wells flowing with pure water. But the enemy came and filled them with dirt. This is a type of what the enemy of our souls tries to do with us. He often succeeds because we are ignorant of his ways (Gen. 26:15-22).
Jesus said we must come to Him on a daily basis to have our walk on this earth cleansed so that the flow of the Holy Spirit is unhindered. We must let Him wash our feet; that is, wash our daily walk on this earth. Just being in this earth will make us dirty. We are bombarded everyday with the cares, lusts and pride of this world. The commercials we are exposed to everyday contain enough lustful temptations to make one spiritually sick. Only Jesus has the spiritual eyes to deal with all the subliminal messages that find their way into our minds and hearts. He is our Spiritual Rotor-Rooter Man.
The Scriptures are filled with admonitions to always be in a state of thankfulness from a truly grateful heart. It's the heart that counts. Ritualistic repetitive giving of thanks as part of a prayer formula is worthless.
If we find it difficult to express thankfulness from the heart, we can be assured that something is wrong in our spirit. I've been told the laughter is a healthy activity that it releases a chemical into the body that is good. I believe gratitude is also very healthy, as it removes scales from our spiritual eyes caused by resentment, anger, bitterness, jealousy, hate, etc.
Gratitude puts down our defenses and negative attitude allowing us to see opportunities of blessing all around us. Make the heart merry. Fill it with gratitude and let thanksgiving flow from your lips and turn barren deserts into gardens. Repent, turn to Jesus. Allow Him to send His Holy Spirit to flow into those areas clogged with fleshful thinking. Let Him cleanse you of all unrighteousness not through legalism, but through intimacy with Him through the Holy Spirit. Remember, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:6)
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6,7 NIV)
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving" (Col 2:6,7 KJV).
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving, And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations" (Psalm 100:4,5 NAS).
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:12-17 NIV).
And now, let the praise flow. As this popular praise song goes:
Give thanks, with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks, because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son.
And now, let the weak say I am strong,
Let the poor say I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for me.