Sermon November 21, 2004 : Luke 17:11

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda | Translator: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Length: 42:35
  • Date: November 21, 2004
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

Next week we have Thanksgiving and so it’s very appropriate that we study a little bit about an attitude of thankfulness, having gratitude before the Lord, having a gracious, thankful attitude which is so important. I want to sort of make it very clear to us, how important it is to have and attitude of thankfulness, being thankful before the Lord and also before others.

Luke 17:11, if you have your Bible please read with me, I’ll read in Spanish. Summarizing for those who don’t have the Bible, it says that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and He was going between Samaria and Galilee when he entered a village, 10 men who had leprosy came close to him, but far enough to stay away according to the law, and they stood at a distance and they raised their voice saying: Jesus, master have mercy upon us. And when He saw them He said: Go and show yourselves to the priests. And it happened that as they went they were cleansed and then one of them, seeing that he had been healed, returned glorifying God in a great voice and he bowed and placed his face upon the earth and he gave thanks to Jesus and this man was a Samaritan and Jesus answering said: Weren’t there 10 who were cleansed and the other 9 where are they? There was no one else to return and give glory to God except for this stranger? And he said: Rise, go, your faith has made you whole, your faith has saved you.

What a marvelous passage, what a marvelous illustration of the importance of having a gracious attitude of thankfulness. As a matter of fact I think there’s no better passage in all of the scripture to show the importance of gratitude, of thankfulness than this passage. We can think of a lot of different virtues that adorn the Christian character, the Bible calls us to many attitudes and values that are very, very beautiful and we have no problem for example in accepting that love should be a quality of the Christian character. We also know for example we have no quarrel with the call of scripture to mercy as an attribute of Christian character. We know for example that also holiness should be part of the Christian life and Christian walk. But what about gratitude? You know, gratitude is also a value, it is a distinctive of the Christian life, and scripture in many places calls us to what some people have described as an attitude of gratitude.

Let’s look for a moment at Colossians chapter 3:15, and this is just one of many passages that call us to a gratitude in every aspect of the Christian life. It says: “….and the peace of God may govern your hearts to that peace to which you were also called in one body and be thankful”.

You know one of the things that strike me about that initial reading is the connection between peace and thankfulness. There’s a very subtle psychological connection between an attitude of thankfulness and of recognition of the blessings that we have received from God and from life and emotional peace. I mean, we just have to think the contrary connection, somebody who is critical about life, who is cynical about life, who refuses to acknowledge the good things that they are enjoying, who is not careful to acknowledge all the blessings that they have access to in their lives, and you will notice immediately that it’s impossible for that kind of attitude to engender peace, but when you acknowledge the goodness that you are recipient of and when you see all the blessings that you have in your life, then it’s very easy to be thankful and at the same time also to feel enjoyment because that kind of recognition will engender good feelings, so that’s not a coincidental connection that the Apostle made between peace and gratitude. There again it says “…and the word of God abound in you, abundantly dwell in you, teaching each other and exhorting each other with all wisdom, singing with gratitude”, I think the English retains that idea of gratitude “…in your hearts to the Lord with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”.

The connection between thankfulness and praise is very important as well. When you thank the Lord really you’re praising the Lord, you’re acknowledging his goodness, you’re acknowledging his provision, you’re acknowledging his faithfulness, so as you thank the Lord for the things that you have received it really is worship. So there was adoration as well as an expression of thanks for the blessing received. It’s almost impossible to truly praise and worship the Lord without having a heart of thankfulness, and a heart of thankfulness will always I believe, when it’s intense. When Mary Magdalene broke the vase of alabaster en poured perfume, costly perfume on the head of the Lord because she had been delivered from a life of impurity and there was such gratitude in her heart and also had an intuition and insight about Christ’s death that nobody else had been privy to. It was very beautiful, because that’s another thing, when you have a thankful spirit you have insight into a side of Jesus that nobody else has.

In verse 17 here in Colossians it says: “…and everything that you do be it in word or deed do it all in the name of Jesus the Lord, giving thanks to God, the Father through him, through Jesus Christ”. You know gratitude should permeate every aspect of our life, everything that we do should be penetrated by that sense of the love of God, the faithfulness of God, the blessing of God and so everything that we do, we should do it with that attitude of thankfulness and I tell you our daily chores would proceed so much more quickly and lightly if we had that attitude of gratitude that the Lord so delights in.

When you allow that attitude of thankfulness to invade your daily chores they cease to be that burden that sometimes we see and we thank the Lord for allowing our jobs that we have. Sometimes we see them as a chore and yet thank God that we have a job, thank God that we have a healthy body that can deal with that job. Thank God that we have a mind that can process the things that we need to do, praise the Lord for that. I mean, it’s hard to thank the Lord for washing dishes, but thank God that we have dishes, a lot of people don’t even have that.

As we can see very summarily that the gratitude is an important virtue, gratitude is an important aspect of the Christian life. There’s almost a command there “… be grateful”, it says, be grateful, it is a call, it is an imperative of the Christian life.

Now let’s go into this passage directly. You know I’m impacted by the fact that only one out of ten felt that compulsion to come and thank Jesus. You know I would venture to, I would wager to think that ten percent is probably an adequate number that reflects how many people truly are thankful to God for the blessings received, how many people cultivate that spirit of worship, of praise, of thankfulness to the Lord, even in churches. You know your 10% of people who receive the Bibles when you distribute them, you know that’s probably not, only a very small portion of the human race really acknowledges the blessings received from the Creator. How many of us come to church with a purely religious attitude? It’s Sunday and therefore I go to church because my suit is waiting for me, it’s going to feel lonely if I don’t take it out and I don’t put it on and go to church.

How many people really come to worship the Lord and to thank Him for the blessings received? How many come with a spirit of praise, actively seeking to honor the God that blessed them throughout the whole week? Or how many people come in the morning before the Lord or at night before going to bed and just thank the Lord that he has delivered them, that He has blessed them, that he has provided for them, that He has renewed the beating of the heart or the breathing of the lungs, minute by minute? Things that we just really take for granted. I want to belong to that ten percent of grateful men and women and I hope you do too. When we come to the house of the Lord, let’s not be passive, let us be grateful, let us be expressive in our thanks, in our worship to the Lord.

The other interesting thing is the fact that the man who came to worship Jesus was a Samaritan, as Luke points out, very deliberately. When you see a Samaritan doing something good just put a little underlining there because it’s meaningful. Samaritans were people who thousands of years before had stayed when the expulsion of the Jews by the Syrians took place, and they had mixed with the hidden people of the area and they had created a religion that was hybrid, it was partially Judaic but also partially with other elements there, and they did not worship in Jerusalem. As a matter of fact when they tried to help the Jews to build the temple again in the Book of Ezra, the Jews rejected them, thinking that they were impure. So therefore, really nothing good was expected in the ….. literature of the Samaritan.

The Bible always delights in pointing out that very wonderful good things have come from the most unexpected places. One can ask why was it a Samaritan who felt the of the Lord to come and give thanks. You know you can enter into the psychology of the Samaritan, he felt unworthy, he felt frail, he felt humble, he felt weak and therefore he was in such much a better position to feel that he wanted to bless Jesus for what he had received, whereas the other Jews who felt being a part of the congregation of Israel, or at least in the sense, well, we are Jews and even though they were lepers, but they had a greater of sense of security. He was doubly an outcast, he was a leper and he was a Samaritan and therefore I think he was in a better disposition to be humble and to want to please the Lord by expressing his thankfulness.

I think really that often there’s an implicit mental attitude in us that what we have, you know really we deserve it, or that at least we’re not so bad that we should not get it. But it really…., time and time again, I’m reminded that it’s that attitude of humility, of deep unworthiness before the Lord that engenders the kinds of attitudes that glorify God in the Christian scripture that enables us to understand and have a deeper insight of the things of the spirit. When we have that attitude of self sufficiency, that implicit sense of worthiness that many of us carry around, even in the Christian world, it puts a barrier between us and the ability to perceive the deeper things of the word of God.

How important it is to be broken in spirit in life! There are so many people in the Kingdom of God who believe that they’re more than they really are and this is why the Apostle Paul said, let no one think of themselves higher, more highly than they should, but let them think of themselves soberly because that is the pre requisite for all insight into the deep truth of the Kingdom of God. If you want more confirmation of what I’m saying, let’s just go to the story again of Simon the Pharisee and Mary the woman who broke the vase of perfume. Simon the Pharisee felt, you know I’m a good guy, I’m pretty good I’m pretty religious and so when Jesus came to Him he just gave Jesus a very courteous reception, a very acceptable reception, but Mary who had been forgiven many sins, loved more deeply and therefore felt a compulsion to thank the Lord in a much more eloquent, graphic way, and Jesus said to Simon: hey, Simon when I came to you, you gave me a very courteous reception, the minimum, but Mary she loved so much because she had been forgiven so much.

It is so important to cultivate, before we even proceed to gratitude, humility of heart, a sense of unworthiness, everything that I have is a bonus, my brothers and sisters. Everything that you have been given is just by the sheer grace of God and therefore you should be consumed by a desire to serve him and to give him your all. This teaches us another thing which is that gratitude is linked subterraneously with other deeper truths of the Kingdom of God, it’s not just been grateful, sort of a simple, mundane kind of gratitude. No, gratitude is linked to all the very powerful, powerful truths of the scripture, so let us not underestimate its importance.

Let me bring gratitude to the level of daily life, let’s bring it down now. I’ve tried to raise it to a sublime height, let me bring it down for a moment to the level of daily life. It is so important to have a grateful attitude towards others as well not just to God but to be gracious and expressive for others. Sometimes we can take for granted the blessings that we receive from others. Our parents, particularly to young people but I think to all of us, we need to honor our parents. You know sometimes you say, well, you know you brought me to life, you have to give me because I didn’t ask to be brought into life. Actually I’ve heard people say that, and that is to me the extreme of ingratitude. You owe me this, yes, you got to pay for my education, you got to pay for my rent because I didn’t ask to be brought to the world. You know that’s extreme ingratitude.

Doctors and nurses who care for us, sometimes we Christians in our desire to honor God we can be very ungrateful to members of the medical profession. We say: oh I give all the glory to God and I don’t give any glory to doctors. Well, you know what the Bible says that we must give honor to whom honor is due. And doctors are used by God to heal us and to acquire a knowledge that is sometimes life saving, and certainly life enhancing and therefore we should thank the Lord for them but we should thank them whenever we can, rather than say: Well, they make a lot of money, so that’s their pay. No, we should be thankful to the Lord for them.

Our teachers. We must thank teachers because they bless us with their knowledge, they bless us with their care, they bless with their investment of energy. We should be thankful to them. You know sometimes our teacher, we neglect to be thankful to them, they invest in us, they love, they mentor us and we should be thankful. I think one of the curses upon schools is the fact that it’s filled with people that do not honor their teachers. Young people who have not been taught by their parents to honor their teachers and we should honor our teachers, and we should teach our children to honor and to be gracious and grateful to teachers because there’s a blessing in that kind of attitude and we should express our thanks to people who bless us and help us around in life.

Have an affirming heart, if somebody took good care of you in a restaurant tip them well or thank them and acknowledge the fact that they did well by you and that they went an extra mile for you and be thankful. There’s nothing like having an affirming attitude in life. We lose opportunities to bless so many people by not expressing thanks to them and by assuming that simply that’s what they’re doing and that’s their job and that’s it. No, let us have this attitude of blessing others, of affirming others, of strengthening and encouraging others. Sometimes the person that you least think needs affirmation

And needs thanks and that leads me to the other point. I’m closing up here but you know it’s really marvelous when you think about the fact of Jesus’ reaction to the act of this man. Let’s enter for a moment again into the psychology of this Samaritan. When Jesus said to these men: go and present yourselves before the priests so that they can certify that you indeed have been healed of leprosy. We don’t know what distance they had to traverse to get to the place where they were to present themselves to the priests, but I imagine that it must have been down town Jerusalem. You know these 10 men, as they went they were so overjoyed at the blessing that they had received of being healed and of course, leprosy was such a terrible thing, it wasn’t just a physical blemish, it was also spiritual and social deformation because you were really… you were separated from any kind of communion with society. You had to stay away from people physically and you did not belong really to any kind of communion in the social sense of the word.

So these people when they were healed, they were healed in so many different dimensions and I think that they didn’t go back to Jesus, really not because they were ungrateful but you know one of the things I think that they probably thought: well, this powerful man, this being that is so marvelous that can say go and present yourselves and be healed, he doesn’t need our encouragement. He doesn’t need our….. I think that was an implicit dimension of their psyche they didn’t think about that powerful, all sufficient being. But this Samaritan had the insight to feel and to acknowledge that yes, this man, would benefit from my thanks, and so he went back and thanked the Lord.

Sometimes the people that we least think, the people that seem so secure of themselves, a pastor, a doctor, a boss in a job, many of us are so insecure and we do need the blessing of others. They need, a parent needs their child to say: mum, dad, you’re doing a good job. We want to feel that…. we’re very insecure people if we’re honest ultimately and we want the blessing of our children. We want to be told that we have done at least the best that we could, and so never undersestimate. Jesus, when he saw that guy he was touched and he said: well, where are the other ones?

We need to be proactive in expressing thankfulness. Sometimes, the only contact that we have with superiors or with people who bless us is to tell them what they’re not doing, or offer a word of criticism but very often we do not bless them with an expression of thankfulness and we should make sure that we’re doing that as well, and that we are providing a balanced understanding of how we perceive them. Very important. Never underestimate. How important that is!

For me it’s a mystery that God revels in our thankfulness. The old powerful God, the creator of the universe who inhabits his own plenitude, his own fullness and who doesn’t need a thing and yet God loves us to express thankfulness to him and to rejoice in him and to worship him and praise him for his mighty deeds and his good deeds on our behalf. I was telling somebody just this very week; God misses you when you do not present yourself before his presence to thank him, when you don’t come to church God misses you, God misses your worship, God misses your praise, and God certainly enjoys when you come to the house of the Lord and He’s very attentive to your particular expression of thankfulness.

The final thing is that this man had a wonderful moment of intimacy with Jesus that the other 9 were not able to acquire. He achieved the depth of understanding of Jesus that none of the other 9 and his acts still blessing men and women 2000 years after it took place. Jesus said to him: you know I bless you, I approve of you, go home and now enjoy your healing because you have brought blessing to me and your faith has made you whole. And that word in the Greek original means healed physically but also healed spiritually. You have been saved. So he achieved the level of insight and understanding of the ministry of Jesus that none of the other did and that’s what worship does, that’s what gratitude does.

Gratitude engenders from the heart of God powerful feelings of approval and of revelation that you have access to. Gratitude in worship motivates, sort to speak, the Holy Spirit to have deeper level of intimacy with those who worship. That’s why I believe that worshipers have an insight of theological truths that theologians do not have because you reach God so much more intimately through music and through poetry and through direct spiritual experience and worshiping through reason. Because reason can never penetrate the fullness of God but love can, because God is love and he can commune with that energy.

Let’s generate gratitude. You know it doesn’t come naturally because our natural tendency is to be ungrateful and careless but if we recognize that it’s important, let’s work on it and let’s ask God to give us an attitude of thankfulness. That’s why in our prayers we must take time to thank the Lord. When we feel like complaining, let’s thank the Lord. When we feel like just looking at the glass half empty, let’s thank the Lord that it’s half full. The psalmist says: bless the Lord on my soul, in other words, commandment, soul, abandon your natural carelessness and bless the Lord. And it says, bless the Lord on my soul again and do not forget any of his good deeds. Let’s ask the Lord right now; give me a thankful heart, give a thankful heart.

Let’s just lower our heads for a moment here. Let’s ask the Lord for a spirit of gratitude and worship. Let’s embrace the word of God. Just thank the Lord for something that He has done in your life today and that He will do tomorrow and that He has done always. Thank him for the salvation of your soul. Thank him for the blessings of your health and home and family and reason. Just thank the Lord for all the good things that He has placed in your life and make sure that you cultivate that, be deliberate about thanking the Lord always. Let is be a very positive, permeating virtue in your life.

Thank you, Father. Thank you for all the good things that you do in our life. We thank you, Father. Let us speak grateful to you and may our life be a continual expression of gratitude. In the name of Jesus. I bless you in the name of Jesus Christ this morning. Go and live a life of gratitude. Be blessed. Amen. Amen.

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