(Image by James Best, (C) 2019, https://www.behance.net/gallery/82544295/Sermon-Illustrations-2019.)
For lots of people, football is part of their Thanksgiving Day traditions. In my childhood years, turkey and football were a sedative that put the men to sleep while the women cleaned up the feast. Ah, the good old days…
Of course, true football fans celebrate the sport all year round and in many different ways. Here’s my top ten ways to tell who’s a true football fan.
#10 = They are so desperate, they watch draft day, the Hall of Fame game and the Pro Bowl.
#9 = Signs of their team are all around them: on their clothes, homes, cars.
#8 = They will have at least one player’s autograph on some bit of team merchandise.
#7 = Goes through cycles of tension during plays and relaxation between plays.
#6 = Knows team trivia and can argue statistics to prove his team is the greatest.
#5 = Plans vacations around attending games in person.
#4 = Believes the team has only three kinds of teams; his team, everybody else, and his team’s hated rival.
#3 = Has strong opinions on rules and officiating, even knowing several officials by name.
#2 = Does not use the bathroom until halftime.
#1 = Has at least one story of how he broke something in a moment of celebration or sharp disappointment.
In part, Thanksgiving Day is about being grateful for what we have received. Today’s title, “Wide Receivers” is both a nod to football and an invitation to open your hearts to receive the wideness of God’s gifts and be appropriately grateful for all of them.
CONTEXT: This truth was revealed to Paul directly by the Holy Spirit, as he clearly said in verse one. The phrase LATER TIMES refers to the time preceding the Second Coming of Jesus, including Paul’s time and our own; this is not a future event.
Thankfulness accompanies true faith.
1. Forbidding folk follow false faith and foist it on their fellows (vs. 1-3).
Obvious opponents of our faith abandon it entirely. They stand mostly outside the Church. The Holy Spirit made it clear to Paul that their beliefs are from DECEIVING SPIRITS and DEMONS. In John 8:44 Jesus referred to the Devil as THE FATHER OF ALL LIES: every falsehood finds its origin in spiritual evil. This is in sharp contrast to the earlier reference to the Holy Spirit as the source of Paul’s true teaching.
Based on these beliefs, they abandon the faith: whether they abandon the Church or not, the truth does not find a home in what they teach. Much of the New Testament was written to expose and oppose false teachers. It was a huge problem as our faith developed over the first four centuries after Christ.
Subtle opponents of our faith squelch it with legalism. These false teachers are HYPOCRITICAL LIARS. While the obvious opponents may not bother to have a pretense of faith, the subtle opponents wear church like a mask. In fact, the Greek word “hypocrite” means “actor.” Ancient Greek actors wore masks with built-in megaphones!
These false teachers knew enough of the truth to give a reasonable showing but only believed and practiced what they wanted. Paul showed they could be identified by two things.
First, they had SEARED CONSCIENCES, which means hard-heartedness. The word SEARED could be rendered as “cauterized.” If you’ve ever had a problem with scar tissue, you know how the dense flesh caused by a healed wound can interfere with healthy tissues and subsequent procedures in that area of your body. Hard-heartedness is a spiritual condition where a person has made themself insensitive to God, to others, and the ethical obligations due to God and others.
Second, they were given to legalism. In this case, they were legalistic about marriage and some foods. Legalism is any belief that mimics godliness but is without God’s grace. It replaces righteousness with rules. Legalism is a religious-sounding attempt to manipulate others out of evil motives like pride, power, or money.
Marriage is something God instituted in the first days of creation. He called it GOOD. Contrary to that, these false teachers set up a rule that people who are holier-than-thou are celibate. Making a choice not to marry in order to devote more time to God can be a good thing (Paul himself said so in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7) but it is not a choice others make for you.
These false teachers were also ordering people to ABSTAIN FROM CERTAIN FOODS. Again, this is a rule they made up, it was not a command from God. In the Old Testament Law, CERTAIN FOODS were forbidden. But God revoked the dietary laws in Acts 10:9-15. (See also Galatians 5:1-6.) This was not a
2. Faithful folk consecrate things by means of thanksgiving (vs. 3-5).
Faithful folk understand the truth and abide by it. In this passage, the truth is two-fold.
The first truth is, EVERYTHING GOD CREATED IS GOOD. That is the clear message of the first chapter of Genesis. God approved of everything He created.
Keep the context in mind: this truth was affirmed in the face of legalists who were saying the things they chose to be bad were God’s choices too. False! EVERYTHING is a key word. EVERYTHING GOD CREATED IS GOOD is a universal rebuttal of their legalistic scheme that condemned things that God approved.
The second truth is, the practice of thanksgiving has the power to make things holy. This is our main point today. WOW! Thanksgiving is not just a sentiment; it is a powerful force that turns evil into good, unholy things into holy things. Let’s see how:
The people who wield the power of THANKSGIVING are identified in verse three as THOSE WHO BELIEVE AND KNOW THE TRUTH. In the same vein as EVERYTHING, verse four also says NOTHING; NOTHING IS TO BE REJECTED. The word REJECTED means to throw something in the trash; to treat it like garbage. The false laws and the unnecessary self-denial the false teachers were selling was contrary to the will of God. NOTHING was to be rejected in the way they were proposing. This is the same message as the voice from heaven that said to the Apostle Peter, “DO NOT CALL ANYTHING IMPURE THAT GOD MADE CLEAN.” (Acts 10:15). We do not make the rules; God does. We obey and help others to obey, but we are not free to make up stuff to suit our personalities or passions.
Note the word IF. Here’s the condition under which NOTHING IS TO BE REJECTED: IF IT IS RECEIVED WITH THANKSGIVING. To receive something with THANKSGIVING is to recognize it as a gift from God and to be appropriately grateful. Thanksgiving is entirely God-centered. This means six things:
- It is an act of worship as we pray and tell God thank you for His generous grace.
- It is an act of fellowship as we join with other believers to express our praise.
- It is an act of stewardship to put His gifts to the most wise and righteous use.
- It is an act of service as we share God’s supply with those in need.
- It is a witness to persons outside our faith when they see our loving service.
- It is instruction to our children and to new believers when they see both God’s generosity and our joyous sharing of it.
Verse five explains how THANKSGIVING has such transformational power: BECAUSE IT IS CONSECRATED BY THE WORD OF GOD AND PRAYER. To consecrate something is to make it holy, to set it apart from worldly uses for distinctly divine uses. Consecration is done BY THE WORD OF GOD AND PRAYER. When we rely on God’s revelation in all parts of life, we turn what is worldly and mundane into something heavenly and special. The same is true of prayer. When prayers for wisdom and guidance precede our everyday decisions and when prayers of thanksgiving follow everyday experiences, those things become something spiritual and special.
Thankfulness accompanies true faith.
The point simply is this: Thanksgiving Day can be an exercise in sentimentality, a tradition that is available to people of all faiths. That’s perfectly fine.
However, for followers of Jesus Christ, thanksgiving is to be a daily practice. It is to be a God-centered approach to life that has the fantastic power to bring life to faith. This is obviously not seasonal or limited to one day a week, but is something we choose to do as often as possible.
We began by poking fun at football fans. We’ll conclude with the three things we’ve noted about Jesus followers and how they enact thankfulness.
1) They see all of life as being God-centered.
2) They see God’s blessings as empowerment for service and witness.
3) They receive God’s gifts with gratitude.
God bless your thanksgiving celebrations. God bless you as you enact transformational thanksgiving every day.