We Gather Together

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  9 : 15
Subject: Thanksgiving; Gratitude; Appreciation; Praise; Jesus, Thankful for

WE GATHER TOGETHER

Dr. J. Mike Minnix
Introduction

(Dr. Minnix preached this sermon at a city-wide Thanksgiving service where numerous denominational groups gathered.)

2 Corinthians 9:15

We gather together, but what brings us here? Thanksgiving? Sure! This is the eve of our national Ebenezer (see 1 Samuel 7:12): "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." But something more than the national holiday has caused us to leave our own churches and join in this one place tonight. Something draws us together as a community of churches this evening to give thanks to our God. We could well have had thanksgiving services in our own buildings, but we chose to gather together. Why have we done this?

We have not united here because we have the same doctrine. We look at the scripture with slight nuances of interpretation. In fact, we enjoy poking fun at our differences. Many years ago, when Jack Cooke came to Cherryville, I am told that he went to visit a certain home. A little boy sat on the porch with a box in his lap. Jack asked what was in box and the boy said, "Puppies." Jack asked what kind of puppies they were. The little fellow said, "Methodist puppies." Jack was thrilled. In fact, later he decided to take his wife to see this little boy with the Methodist puppies. Several weeks had past and the puppies were around the little boy's feet in the yard. Jack said, "Son, tell my wife what kind of puppies those are.. The boy replied, "They are Baptist puppies." Jack was taken aback and said, "Son, I thought you told me those were Methodist puppies." The little boy grinned and said, "That's right, I did, but that was before their eyes were opened!" Oh, we love to make fun about our differences. But in reality those differences have caused us to be in different congregations, so we are not united here due to doctrine.

We are not united here due to economics, for some are far more well‑to‑do than others. We are not united here because of our homes. Some have lost a mate through divorce or death and come here with a sense of loneliness that others cannot fully appreciate. We have not gathered together due to our thankfulness for health, for there are those among us in perfect health while others here may be under the care of a doctor. Some may be facing medical tests or surgery soon.

Why are we here in this interdenominational gathering, as we do each year at Thanksgiving? We are here, united by a common thread, but it is not our financial, denominational, physical, political, or philosophical likeness. Why have we gathered together? We have gather together because of one person. We gather together because we all agreed that Jesus Christ is Lord and through Him we all have a common Heavenly Father. We are a family coming together like this once a year to jointly give praise to our God for and through His Son.

Granted we thank him for every temporal, earthly blessing. We know God is good and every good gift comes from God (James 1:17). But tonight for a few moments let us focus as one family on that one great unifying force ‑ the Lord Jesus Christ.

My text is 2 Corinthians 9:15. Paul has been thanking the Corinthians for their financial help when suddenly he bursts into thanks for God's unspeakable, indescribable gift ‑ even Jesus Christ, the Lord!

Tonight let us give God thanks for His unspeakable gift (John 3:16). I would not for a moment diminish or abridge the importance of giving thanks for temporal things. Donald Grey Barnhouse went once to a home to eat. The table was laden with food. The host bowed to pray before the meal and said, "O God we thank you for all the things you have given us, but we offer thanks most of all for the water." Dr. Barnhouse was captivated by the prayer. He said that the man had cut through the rhetoric and gone to the simplest but most profound thanks that could be offered. Without water what else could have been there. No water, no crops. No water, no ability to cook. No water, no sustenance. We are grateful for every earthly blessing. The Scripture declares, "What do you have that you have not received?" (2 Corinthians 4:18). Indeed, we owe everything to Him!

Let us tonight, however, focus on grace rather than groceries. Let us consider our salvation and not just our shelter. We should give God thanks for Christ and not just our clothes! Let us turn from that which is passing to that which is permanent. Quite frankly, it is not what is in our pockets but what is in our hearts that makes us thankful. Let us remember that "we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can take nothing out of it" (1 Timothy 6:7). No one has ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer. When we leave this world, we leave it all behind.

Note with me three things in this one verse that we are considering this evening…

I. Exclamation    ("Thanks be unto God...")

Paul had been thanking the Corinthian Christians for their financial gifts when suddenly he spontaneously burst forth in thanksgiving. The sacrifice of these saints had caused Paul to remember the greatest sacrifice of love ever offered ‑ he remember God's gift in the person of Jesus Christ. It is as if Paul could not help himself. He broke out in praise.

I am reminded of a woman who was prone to shout in the worship services at her church. The pastor and leaders were concerned that this was annoying some of the members so they went to her and explained to the poor lady that she needed to stop. She went right on with her "Amens" and "Hallelujahs” every Sunday. Finally they came upon a plan which perhaps could stop her outbursts. They went to her and told her they would buy her a new dress if she would stop the unexpected praise. She was poor, had only one Sunday dress and reluctantly agreed. The next Sunday she came in her new dress and sat quietly for 3/4ths of the service. But then the preacher hit upon a subject that stirred her and she tried to contain herself but could not. Finally she could stand it no longer. She stood up, looked at the preacher and said, "I'm sorry preacher, but new dress or no new dress, Hallelujah!" Bless her heart, she must have been like the Apostle Paul. He could not hold back his thanks and praise.

A. Thanksgiving is Appropriate

There is a beauty and duty about Thanksgiving. Psalm 100 states that we should enter his gates with thanksgiving and come into his courts with praise. The Lord is disappointed when his people practice worship as a habit, dull liturgy or perfunctory event. In Isaiah he told them he was tired of their worship services because they lacked any real heartfelt expression.

B. Thanksgiving is Acceptable

When Jesus entered Jerusalem before his crucifixion the people greeted Him with shouts of Hosanna. The Pharisees asked that the praise be stopped, but Jesus said that if the people did not praise Him the rocks would cry out! In Heaven praise is a natural part of the moment by moment existence. So we know that praise is acceptable when it is genuine.

Naturally the praise is only acceptable if it is backed‑up by a life of obedience. Someone had a bumper sticker that read, "If you love Jesus tithe, anyone can honk." Our praise must be the result of a life which is committed to Him!

C. Thanksgiving is Anticeptic
1. A deterrent to Sin

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:4 that the life of thanksgiving is the converse of the life of evil. True thankfulness keeps one from a life of disobedience and from living in a way that disappoints God. Maybe that is why Paul's life was so used of God, his thankfulness was a deterrent to the sinful and selfish life of some many others.

2. A deterrent to Sadness

It is also a deterrent to sadness. In Proverbs 17:22 we read that gladness doeth good like a medicine. There is a ministry in cheerfulness! The chemists can make no pill as good for your mind and body as that of a simple, thankful, merry heart! No cosmetic was ever made that can create beauty lie a merry heart for God.

Note secondly…

II. Exultataion    ("Thanks be to God")

Paul is not caught up here in mere emotionalism. Paul is extolling the God who has given him the great gift of life, love and liberty in Christ. Deuteronomy 6:11 and 12 warns of eating the fruit of God's blessings and then forgetting God. Paul has eaten of the Bread of Life and he will not forget the Lord's goodness and beneficence.

He who forgets gratitude cannot be on speaking terms with God! Perhaps this is why Paul walked so closely with the Lord. We could all walk more closely with Him if we were more appreciative of His benefits, especially the one greatest gift ‑ even His Son, Jesus Christ.

A. The Right Focus

We should thank God for the things and not just thank the things themselves. Some do this unknowingly. Being thankful is so natural that even atheists often express it, but to whom. If an atheist is spared from an accident his natural inclination will be to say, "Thank goodness." Thank who? It should be "Thank God!" We must be sure we do not do the same thing without realizing it.

B. The Resistance of Forgetfulness

In Deuteronomy 6:11 and 12, we read that God warned the people not to eat the fat of the land and then to forget Him. There is always a danger of that happening to all of us. We must resist forgetfulness by keeping reminders before us of God’s goodness and grace.

III. Exasperation   ("..for his indescribable gift.")

Call for the preacher who can completely extrapolate the fullness of God's love in giving His Son for our redemption. Bring in the orator whose vocabulary can reach the heights of God’s goodness. Let us hear the sliver tongue that can fully express the inexpressible gift of God. If one could do so, his words would come from a golden tongue and drop like honey upon our ears. But even then, when he has finished, he is exasperated. He cannot fully describe or completely delineate the goodness of God nor the fullness of the gift.

Bring forth the fiery evangelist who speaks with lightening streaks of vocabulary and thunder bolts of exclamation. He pounds the pulpit till he perspires. Finally he sits exhausted upon the platform. Has he been able to narrate the story to its fullest? Heavens no!

Bring forth the philosopher. He weaves his words like a guru. He calls upon the most masterful images to explain the grandeur of God’s gift. When he is finished, the half has not been told!

Why, can no one express God’s love in Christ completely and fully? God's love is inexpressible. Speak of it we must, but we have to trust the Holy Spirit to convey the deeper meaning of all we say about it. Jesus Christ is a gift too sublime for human tongue to tell.

The Artist can praise him because he is the Lovely One altogether.
The Astronomer can praise him because he is the Bright and Morning Star.
The Banker can praise him because he is the Hidden Treasure.
The Baker can praise him because he is the Bread of Life.
The Carpenter can praise him because he is the Door.
The Doctor can praise him because he is the Great Physician.
The Ecologist can praise him because he is the Water of Life.
The Florist can praise him because he is the Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon.
The Geologist can praise him because he is the Solid Rock and the Chief Cornerstone.
The Horticulturist can praise him because he is the True and Living Vine.
The Industralist can praise him because his Father works and He works hitherto.
The Jeweler can praise him because he is the Pearl of Great Price.
The King can praise him because he is the King of Kings.
The Landlord can praise him because he has gone to prepare a place for us.
The Minister can praise him because he is the Word of God.
The Newsman can praise him because he is God's Good News.
The Optimist can praise him because Light of the World.
The Philosopher can praise him because he is the Way, Truth and Life.
The Sinner can praise him because he is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

But, after all have spoken in their turn, no one can has wholly expressed the holy gift that God has given.    

A. His Value is Inestimable

This gift was not a loan, nor a purchase, this was a GIFT! Prophesied long before arrival and proclaimed now for centuries since. This gift excels all others. This great, free, efficacious and necessary gift should be enough to make every day thanksgiving day for the Christian.

B. His Results are Immeasurable

What Christ has done for the human heart, for the world, cannot be measured. No math has ever been created that can plumb its depths or span its width.

C. His Eternality is Incomprehensible

What is eternity? No words can be formed to fully grasp it. We live in time and eternity is something we talk about but we don’t fully know of undestand. God has always been and always will be. In Christ He allows us to enter into Eternal life. No wonder Paul found it inexpressible.

Conclusion

The song writer penned the words:

"Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."

Let us go from here tonight with the exclamation of thanks upon our lips and in our hearts for God's unspeakable gift, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us think upon the inexpressible nature of the gift.

Charles H. Spurgeon once said, "There must be think at the bottom of thank." Indeed, if we do not think of what God has done, we will not thank Him for it!

A preacher had made several attempts to bring a university professor to faith in Christ, all without success. The professor continued to come to the church and then one Sunday he stepped out and came to the front of the church following the message and stated that he was coming to profess his faith in Christ as his Savior. After the service the preacher asked the man what in his message had prompted the man to finally take the step of faith. The professor said, "Preacher, it was not your message, but a little boy who touched me. Last week as I was leaving the service I bumped into this boy. The boy looked up at me with a big, beaming smile on his face and said, "Mister, ain't it good being a Christian!" I nodded, but I knew I wasn't really a Christian. I've thought about that little lad all week. The joy on his face, the thankfulness on his lips touched me. When I come to the end of the way, I want to have that kind of peace and happiness."

A word of joy in the life of a Christian is what this world needs to see. It is what God deserves. It is what will help us to enjoy our days and be effective witnesses for him. Let us go from here thanking God for His indescribable gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. We can say with that little boy, "Ain`t it good being a Christian!"