In 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2, verse 12, Paul writes about people who are perishing. They aren’t headed for destruction because of a chance or random event. They aren’t headed for destruction because of the actions of someone else. Paul writes that they are condemned because of a deliberate choice they made. What was the choice? They delighted, or took pleasure, in wickedness. Involved in this choice was not believing the truth. It’s not that they didn’t have the opportunity to know the truth; it wasn’t that the truth was beyond their capability to understand. They turned away from the truth for moral reasons.
In contrast to this group of people, Paul writes in verses 13 and 14, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 NIV)
If we belong to Christ, there are several things in this passage for which we, like Paul, can give thanks:
1) That we are loved by the Lord.
2) That God chose us, from the beginning, to be saved.
3) That the Spirit sanctifies us – that is that the Spirit sets us apart from evil and sin and makes us holy.
4) That we believe the truth.
5) That God has called us through the gospel.
6) That we can share in Christ’s glory.
Unfortunately, we humans tend to forget just how much God has done for us. Even though we have been blessed so richly, we can very easily start to take God’s blessings for granted. Even worse, we can begin to think that we somehow deserve them.
Perhaps it is for this reason that just before He sacrificed His own life so that we might have salvation, Jesus gave His disciples a memorial – something which would always remind us of what He has done and how much we’ve been blessed. “When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”” (Luke 22:14-20 NIV)
One of the things which impresses me in the accounts of what we know as the ‘Last Supper’ is that Jesus gave thanks. Stop and think about it. Jesus was about to go through an incredibly agonizing death. He knew full well what He was facing. In addition to the physical agony was the trauma of being betrayed and deserted by His friends. On top of everything else, He knew that taking the sins of the whole world upon Himself would force His heavenly Father to turn away. For God cannot look upon sin (See Isaiah 59:1-2, Habakkuk 1:13). The close relationship that Jesus had known with the Father from all eternity would be broken.
In spite of all this, or maybe because of it, Jesus gave thanks. The accounts do not tell us why He gave thanks. Perhaps it was to consecrate the bread and the fruit of the vine (See 1 Timothy 4:3-5). But I suspect that there was more to it than that. I suspect that one of the reasons He gave thanks was to set an example for us. It was to remind us that no matter how grim our circumstances may be, we still have much to be thankful for.
Because of what God has done for us through Jesus, we have salvation. This morning as we partake of the emblems which remind us of the price which was paid for our salvation, let’s do so with thankful hearts.