Thanks for The Memories

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  15 : 1-4
Subject: Thanksgiving; Gratitude; Cross of Christ; Salvation

It is unfortunate but true that sometimes it takes the shock of a present experience to cause us to remember the greatness of the blessing of our God upon our lives in the past. We tend to take so much for granted; the multiple and daily blessings of our God upon our lives.

In recent days as several of us traveled on the mission trip to Africa we were impressed again and again with the poverty that we saw there and how fortunate we are in America to have the blessings we have. As we traveled to the villages over miles and miles of pothole-filled dirt roads and ate the dust of the mission car in front of us, we thanked the Lord for something as basic as a paved street and interstate highways. As we walked through the villages and entered huts that had thatched roofs and walls made of sticks and plastered with mud and dung, with interior floors of dirt and of course no bath, but only a path, we thanked the Lord for our beautiful homes with carpeted floors, secure walls and roof, indoor plumbing, comfortable furnishings, modern kitchen and beds with clean sheets instead of a straw mat on a dirt floor. You cannot imagine the poverty; you truly have to see with your eyes to receive the impact.

I thanked the Lord for water faucets and drinking fountains as we went to arid areas where there literally was no water to drink-not one drop! A Baptist layman at the First Baptist Church in Dalton, Georgia became so concerned about the problem that he gave us $25,000 to build a dam to provide a freshwater lake for thousands of people who now must walk 10-12 miles to fill their jug with fresh water. Imagine getting up in the morning with the knowledge that your day will be a single responsibility, a single effort and that is to walk all day so that you can fill the family jug with water for consumption. Water that will last only for a couple of days; then you must take another day to walk it again. This you will do two or three times a week at the minimum. The walk that we must make for water is never more than a few feet, wherever we might be.

As I went with Al Cummins to deliver 200 pound bags of corn grain in Zola to feed hungry families I could not help thinking of the amounts of food that we scrape off our plates into the garbage every day. My thoughts in that moment were not the same as those thoughts I had as a child when my folks would insist that I would remain seated at the table until I ate all of my spinach. There were those occasions that we would be reminded of the starving children in Africa who would love to have that food. My thoughts at that age were: "Fine let's box it up and send it right over to them."

My thoughts this time were far more reverent than that. I was so heartbroken for the hungry children and so thankful to God that we have provisions enough and to spare for our children and for ourselves. We live in a land of plenty and we are seen by the people of the world as kings and queens. We were considered millionaires by the Africans, though none of us approach that elite group of financiers.

The most disturbing of all was to see the children wearing tattered garments, filthy dirty. Little noses, giving evidence of colds untreated. Feet and legs covered with dust and dirt. Feet that have never known socks and shoes. Their toys consisted of none commercially produced. The only toys we saw were in the hands of the most ingenious children; for whatever toys they had, they had made all by themselves. Little wagons less than a foot long and about 4-6 inches wide with wheels that turn-all made from wire, like coat hanger wire. In one village we saw a little wire car that a child had made where the wheels turned and there was even a steering wheel that actually worked to control the turning of the front wheels. Every child loves a ball. They had no rubber balls but they did have balls. They were made out of plastic bags crumpled together and rolled up then bound tightly with twine.

These were crude balls, but very effective. I played catch with one of the boys for about thirty minutes on afternoon in Subukia.

My, how God has blessed the people of the United States. We are materially favored above all the people of the earth, I assure you. There is no one in all the world as blessed materially as we are. At this Thanksgiving let us not fail to thank our Lord for the abundance that we possess, for the blessings that he has literally poured out upon us! Let us pray, "thanks for the memories God of all the blessings you have given to us, since the day of our birth we have been blessed with so much-- beautiful homes, nice automobiles, fresh drinking water, toys, fine schools, excellent roads and transportation, comfortable and beautiful clothes, the world's finest health care and facilities." God has been good to us. Let us thank and praise Him.

While we are saying, "Thanks for the memories," let us thank God for the memories of spiritual blessings that he has given us as well. No one in America has an excuse before God for not responding to the claim of Jesus Christ upon his life. In Africa we encountered persons who had never even heard the name of Jesus, but here the name of Jesus is spoken daily. In America every cable system is carrying at least one or two religious channels, and I am thankful. The message of Christ is out there. It is available for anyone who desires to hear of God's saving grace. We all have had numerous opportunities to respond to the message of God's love. We must not fail to remember to thank God for our religious freedom and the privilege, so precious that is ours to worship God as we choose.

I read the other day that travelers in the Alps come every now and then to a stone or two or three stones that have been set up. It is said that these stones are milestones of blessing, places where men have stopped along the way to rest and to give God thanks for His care thus far and to ask Him for help in the journey yet to come. We need to set up some stones of Thanksgiving don't we?

In Joshua 4 we find such an example of Thanksgiving. The Children of Israel stood facing the swift waters of the Jordan River. They needed to cross. They were ready to enter the land of promise.

According to the Word of the Lord, Joshua commanded the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant to the brink of Jordan. Then as they actually entered into the waters, the Jordan River was cut off from the waters coming down from the north. Those waters were piled up in a heap and the ground became dry. Then the children of Israel passed over on dry ground. It was a miracle like that at the Red Sea when the Israelites were being pursued by the Egyptian army. Joshua commanded that a representative from each of the twelve tribes of Israel lift a stone from the bed of the river where the priests were standing with the Ark and carry the stones up to the shore. The stones were set up at Gilgal where the Children of Israel camped at night. They were set up as a memorial so that in the days and years to come when their children asked "Why are these stones here?" The parents would recount for them the memory of how God faithfully brought them across the Jordan at this place. "Thanks for the memories!"

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of keeping in our memory the remarkable blessings of the Lord for which we are eternally grateful. We too, should expect some stone markers at the great events of our spiritual experiences so that we may teach our children the spiritual blessings of the Lord and say to them, it was here that Jesus died for us, and it was here that He was raised from the dead, and it was here that His resurrection was verified by witnesses and it was here that I came to know the Lord as my personal Savior. If you are unable to mark these great events in your life, then your cause for thanksgiving is greatly diminished. What Paul was really saying was: "Thanks, God, Thanks for the memories!"

In verse 1, Paul details for us the experience, or process, of salvation. First there is the declaration of the Gospel. When the Gospel is preached then those who hear the Gospel have a responsibility.

They must either respond to the Gospel or reject the Gospel. Gladly we may rejoice that the Corinthians to whom Paul was writing had "received" the Gospel. This means simply that they had received Jesus in their hearts. You have heard the Gospel. Have you received Jesus in your heart? This, in fact, is the way that a person is saved. One hears about Jesus; one believes in Jesus; one receives Jesus.

Following the commitment to Christ, one is able to stand firm upon the truth of the Gospel. Paul said, "I preached to you the Gospel; you received the Gospel; and it is upon this Gospel that you stand today."

In verse 2, Paul is saying that if you have trusted Christ, it will make a difference in your life. You will rehearse daily in your heart, you will remember in your mind, the things that Jesus did for you and you will stand firm, otherwise, your testimony of belief will be false. Paul is getting back to the basic point that if you have truly believed and received the Lord as your personal savior, there will be a difference in your life. You will live for Him.

I. Thanks for the Memory of the Crucified Christ

The first stone marker we should erect is at the cross of Jesus. "Thank you God, for the memory of Jesus who died for me."

When Jesus established the ordinance of the Lord's Supper He did so with a single command: "As often as you eat of this bread and drink of this cup, do it to remember me." There is no more precious memory for the Christian than that Jesus shed His blood upon the cross of Calvary for the remission of our sins. Without the death of Christ upon the cross, there would be no forgiveness of sin           and we would all be lost eternally. "For the wages of sin is death..." Our condition would be one of lostness because we would have to pay the price for our own sin and that price is eternal death. But with gladness of heart and thanksgiving we can give thanks that Jesus did lay down His life because He did not want us to die. He said, "If you will believe in me as the Son of God and trust in Me alone for your salvation, I will forgive your sin and remember it against you no more."

"When I survey the wondrous cross,

On which the Price of glory died,

My riches gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride."

"Thanks God for the memory of Jesus who died for me." We should erect a stone marker at the cross. Then when our children say, "What is that stone for?" We can say, "It is there for a memorial. It is there upon the cross that our Savior died for our sins."

II. Thanks for the Memory of the Resurrected Lord

There is a second stone marker that we should erect. It is at the tomb of the Lord Jesus. It was here in the tomb of Joseph that Jesus was buried. He was buried for the same reason that anyone is buried. He was dead. But after three days the miraculous power of God was seen as Jesus was raised victoriously over death according to the scriptures. The scriptures that Paul is referring to here are the scriptures of the Old Testament. This is also true of the reference to the scriptures in the third verse. We are familiar with Psalm 22 which begins with "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" This remarkable Psalm tells of the crucifixion of Christ as does Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:26, and Zechariah 13:7. But where does the Old Testament speak of the resurrection of Christ? We recall that Jesus himself, speaking of the resurrection made reference to Jonah (Matt. 12:38-41).

Paul also compared Christ's resurrection to the "firstfruits" and the firstfruits were presented to God on the day following the Sabbath after Passover (Lev. 23:9-14; 1 Cor. 15:23). Since the Sabbath is always Saturday, the day following the Sabbath is the firs day of the week, Sunday, the day on which Christ resurrected from the grave. Further, Psalm 16:8-11 foretells the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy One.

"Thank you, God, for the memory of the resurrection of Christ!" It is by the resurrection that we have the assurance that we who believe will also live eternally. Let us erect a stone at the empty tomb. When our children ask: "Why is that stone there by that empty tomb?" we can tell them that it is there as a memorial of the greatest, most glorious event ever to take place upon the face of this earth, the resurrection of our Lord!

III. Thanks for the Memory of My Salvation

Let us also erect a stone marker at the place in our lives when we personally acknowledged our need for Christ and opened our lives to receive him as personal Savior.

I was a young eight years of age when God touched my tender heart for Christ. I realized that I was lost and that if I should die I would not go to heaven but would be lost eternally in hell. I did not come to Christ in fear but in love, knowing that He had given His all for me.

Paul said, "And last of all He was seen of me also..."

Where were you when you first saw the Lord and opened your life to Him? That event becomes your personal testimony. Your testimony is unique to you. So, when your child, or anyone else for that matter, says, "Why is that stone marker there at that point in your life" you can respond with your testimony that it was there at that moment that God dealt with the greatest need of your life and you gave your heart to Jesus as your personal Savior.

"Thanks for the memories!" The memories of Jesus who died for me upon an old rugged cross, the memories of Jesus who was raised from the dead to give the promise of life everlasting, and the memories of that special time in my life when I saw the Lord and gave Him my life. This is true thanksgiving!


1. G.B.F Hallock, New Sermons For Special Days and Occasions (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1993), p. 281.