Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 12

Why Jesus Is the Only Way to God, and Why Truth Claims to the Contrary Are False

We are living in a post truth era, where people are searching for solid ground, they’re looking for something to say this is true, I can rely on this. Christianity claims to be true. It says it’s not wishful thinking or make-believe or legends or mythology, but it’s based on actual historical evidence. And I think these days young people especially are looking for something solid like that to put their trust in.
Lee Strobel, in an interview about the film The Case for Christ, which tells the story of Strobel’s journey from atheism to Christianity—

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

This week I want briefly to drive a home a key point in last week’s post by providing answers to two common objections to God’s plan of salvation.

Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God?

First, many people seem to be offended when Christians say Jesus is the only way to God—yet they are only relating what Jesus Himself declared. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He said. “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Why should this challenge our sensibilities? God, after all, is God. He has a right to establish how people should approach Him and what will be required of them to enter His home. One former pastor offers this insightful account.

While I once was witnessing to a young couple, the husband said he believed there were many ways to be saved. I asked, “If I came to your house at night, put a ladder up to a second-floor window and climbed in, what you would do?” After the man told me he would shoot me, I asked, “You mean you require someone to enter your house only in the way you prescribe, but you believe you can decide how you are going to get into God’s kingdom?”

He responded, “I guess that doesn’t make sense, does it?” I left hoping my challenge eventually would come to represent a true turning point in this man’s perspective on Jesus.1

Rather than asking how God could exclude those who wish to approach Him in ways other than through His Son, we need to appreciate the cost He paid to provide the one way He provided. God’s perfect character requires Him to judge sin—even those actions we might deem the smallest and least significant violations of His law.

Is God Being Fair?

In a letter to his employees explaining why he believed in the God of the Bible Robert Laidlaw (1885-1971) declared,

A young man once asked me, “Do you think it is fair of God to set the standard of holiness so high that we cannot reach it, and then judge us for falling short?”

This is the second objection we need to consider. Laidlaw continued,

I replied, “God has not set an arbitrary standard of holiness as an official sets an arbitrary standard of height for his bodyguards. In such a case, a man may have all the other qualifications, but if he is an inch too short he is disqualified.

God has not really set a standard at all: He is the standard. He is absolute holiness, and to preserve His own character He must remain absolutely holy in all of His dealings with man, maintaining that standard irrespective of the tremendous implications which it may hold for both Him and us” [emphases added].


God has not really set a standard at all: He is the standard. He is absolute holiness, and to preserve His own character He must remain absolutely holy in all His dealings with man, maintaining that standard irrespective of the tremendous implications which it may hold for both Him and us.
—Robert Laidlaw—


So the question isn’t really one of fairness, but divine holiness. God cannot violate His own character.

God Demonstrates His Love Through His Son

The good news for us is that God also is loving, and His love compelled Him to make it possible for Him to offer us forgiveness. The only way He could do that was to send His Son, Jesus Christ, down to earth to fulfill the law by living a perfect life, and then to die a substitutionary death for sinful humanity. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead affirms God’s acceptance and approval of His Son’s sacrifice.

Respecting the choices of all, however, God will not credit Jesus’ death to the account of anyone who doesn’t express a desire to have it applied to him or her personally. The lost son in Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:11-32 learned the hard way that absolute personal autonomy is a myth, but he still had to choose to return home with an attitude of sorrow and repentance. We must seek God in the same way. We can be certain that just as the father in Jesus’ illustration rejoiced, God also rejoices whenever anyone approaches Him with humility and repentance. You can learn more about God’s plan of salvation here.

The Bottom Line

Jesus was cruelly flogged and then crucified. He died the most horrible of deaths. It is inconceivable that God would allow His only Son to endure such torment to secure salvation and then shun Him by allowing people to come to Him through other means! This never will happen.


Having allowed His Son to secure salvation by dying the most horrible of deaths, God never would shun Him by permitting people to come to Him through other means. 


This is why Jesus is the only way to God. This is why we cannot approach Him any other way. And unfair? How can we accuse God of unfairly upholding His absolute standard of perfection when He met it Himself through His Son, who sacrificed His life for our eternal benefit?

And oh, there’s one more thing. Having hit an absolutely insurmountable wall and then then observed that God has opened a door for us, even as He has consistently upheld His standard of absolute perfection, we are compelled to reject all truth claims—including relativism—that compete with the Christian faith.  It simply can’t be otherwise.

Reality and integrity demand it.

Part 13 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

top imageThe Parable of the Prodigal Son by Guercino (1591-1666)

Note:

1Jerry Price, “Jesus the One and Only,” in Life Words Personal Study Guide, Fall, 2010, (Nashville: LifeWay Christian Resources, 2010), 66.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Combatting Error with the Truth—In 5-Minute Presentations

If truth be not diffused, error will be.
Daniel Webster

Jason, a committed believer, entered his freshman year of college at a state university with a prayer that he would be able to defend his faith courageously and openly—but without being obnoxious. He enjoyed getting to know his fellow students and found that he and another incoming freshman, Steve, were both interested in restoring old cars. This point of mutual interest helped cement a strong friendship between the two, and it wasn’t long before Jason began to look for opportunities to talk to Steve about his relationship with God. One day, Jason decided simply to bring the matter up. He’d been praying for Steve and knew a few simple questions that could direct their conversation toward spiritual things.

“Hey, Steve,” Jason began, “I was wondering if you ever think much about God or spiritual things. Do you think it’s possible for people to have a relationship with God?”

“Jason, I really don’t believe in God at all.” Jason could tell Steve wasn’t offended but simply was sharing what he believed. “Honestly, I think the Bible is difficult to understand. It’s incoherent.”

“Really?” asked Jason. “That’s interesting. You know, I’d like to challenge you on that point. I’ve learned the Bible is a book with 66 major divisions written by 40 different human writers over a period of 1500 years. Despite all that, there really is amazing unity and agreement between the biblical writers. That unity points to the probability of God’s being the ultimate author. In fact, I believe God is the author, and that the Bible makes the most sense to those who know God personally. Think of the Bible as a love letter written by God to His children. Steve, your problem is mainly that you don’t know the author of the letter. You’ve been reading someone else’s mail!”

That same week at a sister school several hundred miles away, Sonya, another committed believer who also was beginning her college career, sat in class as her psychology professor attempted to shoot down the idea that the apostle Paul actually met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The professor had ridiculed Christianity and the Bible several times since the beginning of the school year and had described himself as an atheist. The idea that Paul’s life had taken a 180-degree turn because he’d met Jesus personally, he said, was ridiculous. Jesus, after all, was dead. How could he possibly have influenced Paul’s life? The professor continued, “There’s a phenomenon in psychology whereby a person who is vehemently opposed to a cause can go so overboard fighting it that he winds up embracing the very thing he opposed. I think that’s what happened to Paul.”

“Be careful, sir.” Sonya said as politely as she could. “You’re liable to become a Christian!”

These accounts are based on stories I’ve heard, and I can’t say with certainty that parallel events actually happened. Yet the accounts are instructive for us today. How many of our young people—or how many of us, for that matter—are prepared to defend what we believe?


How many of our young people—or how many of us, for that matter—are prepared to defend what we believe?


I’m not speaking just about our beliefs about God and the Bible, but also about

  • America
  • government
  • national defense
  • race relations
  • history
  • free speech
  • the faith of America’s Founders
  • the environment
  • evidence for God
  • Judeo-Christian values, including the Ten Commandments
  • the free market system
  • human relationships
  • life, and
  • morality

—to name just a few arenas where classic values are under assault today.

The above stories include what we might call “zingers”—memorable, attention-getting lines. In most debates, however, it isn’t the zinger that appears most frequently or that necessarily makes the biggest difference in the effort to win someone over. Of greater importance is the substance of one’s argument and how clearly and cohesively he or she presents it.

Where can people learn the truth about those things for which higher education and society at large have adopted a politically correct interpretation? If you haven’t already been invited, I’d like to invite you to attend Prager University.

prager

Led by Dennis Prager, a conservative radio talk show host, Prager University is an online reservoir of information about hot-button topics. In each “course,” the conservative perspective on the topic at hand is provided. Each one is a video 5 minutes long—and at Prager U, students learn more truth in 5 minutes than is presented in many college and university classes all semester long. Moreover, Prager University is free—and its impact is worldwide!

One final point: while we began this post with illustrations about defending Christianity, Prager U does not focus specifically on defending the Christian faith. It is not a Christian organization; Dennis Prager is a devout Jew who, in and through his work, articulately defends Judeo-Christian values—the values and principles that have made America the freest and strongest nation on earth. Also, while Prager doesn’t specifically defend Christianity, he readily defends Christians and partners with them to make the strongest case for Judeo-Christian truth.

Explore and utilize prageru.com. Share it with others. It’s a great way to equip conservatives—and challenge liberals—with solid information.

Welcome to Prager University

www.prageru.com

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Top image: Display of the Ten Commandments at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas

 

Speak Up!

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

p_dietrich_bonhoeffer

In the last two posts1 we have been challenged to confront the prevailing worldview of Secularism and its counterfeit conclusions about marriage with the plain truth evident in nature. Several months ago in a series of articles, we focused on “The High Cost of Denying the Obvious.”2 While the need to declare the truth is clear, so too is the price involved. In other words, there is a high cost associated with affirming the obvious. We know this to be true, because we have seen Christians persecuted, even through court rulings, for simply remaining true to their consciences. The January 14, 2016 ruling of a New York appellate court against Robert and Cynthia Gifford is just one recent example.

robert-and-cynthing-giffords

In 1 Peter 3:13-17, the apostle Peter told persecuted believers they were blessed if they suffered for the sake of righteousness. They were not to be intimidated or afraid, but were to honor the Lord in their hearts and be ready to defend what they believed whenever anyone asked them about their hope and confidence. Peter also told them to respond with respect and humility to those who disagreed with them. Then he wrote this: “having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”

We need Peter’s God-breathed words of encouragement today. While it may appear as if Satan has the upper hand, he does not. God will use believers’ stands for the truth and their pure lives to convict those who would falsely accuse them of bigotry and hate.

In 2014, identical twins and house flippers David and Jason Benham were offered a television series on HGTV. Flip it Forward was to begin airing in the fall, but the reality show was cancelled in its early stages because the brothers were outspoken about issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. A network spokesperson told them the network did not object to their speaking out about their faith in Christ, but addressing social issues “may be a little much right now.”3

Benham-Brothers-Meet-Brothers-4

David and Jason lost their show, but God gave them a platform they otherwise might never have had. Articulate and engaging, the twins season their presentations with appropriate humor, yet also with clarity, conviction, and grace. They write, “we couldn’t be more thankful for all that has occurred and more steadfast in our desire to live for Christ and to love others with all the conviction we have.”4

Speak up! God—not those who disagree with you—will chart your course.

 

Copyright © 2016 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1Blinded; Ten Ways Same-Sex Marriage Denies Reality

2The High Cost of Denying the Obvious, Part 1: A Dead End; The High Cost of Denying the Obvious, Part 2: God Speaks Clearly Through Nature; and The High Cost of Denying the Obvious, Part 3: God’s Definition of Marriage is Self-Evident

3David and Jason Benham, Whatever the Cost: Facing Your Fears, Dying to Your Dreams, and Living Powerfully, (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2015), 3.

4Ibid., 6.

 

 

A Christmas Study: “How Can This Be?” (update)

Note to all Word Foundations subscribers:

Yesterday’s post included an embedded You Tube video that wasn’t picked up and carried in the email. Because of its importance to the content of the post, I wanted to send you this revision. I apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks for receiving and reading Word Foundations emails!

Merry Christmas!

B. Nathaniel Sullivan

A Christmas Study: “How Can This Be?” (update)

[Today] you will hear people say, “The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.” Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the cause of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense: and the story of the Virgin Birth is a particularly striking example. When St. Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men. No doubt the modern gynecologist knows several things about birth and begetting which St. Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point—that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And St. Joseph obviously knew that.

C. S. Lewis

Among the top 25 Super Bowl ads of all time is this Xerox ad, which aired on Sunday, January 18, 1976.

superbowl-xerox-jpg_224042

Of course, the “punch line” of this ad is the Father’s concluding exclamation, “It’s a miracle!” Especially today, nearly 40 years later, the ad reminds us of a host of now commonplace occurrences that would have been considered miraculous centuries ago, a hundred years ago, and even just a few decades ago. Indeed, technology has brought us to a world where amazing things happen. For example, we have instant messaging through email, cell phones, and video platforms like Skype. And surely both Brother Dominic and the Father would consider it miraculous that many people have copy machines, in the form of printers, in their own homes. While to some extent these innovations may seem miraculous even to us, we know there are scientific explanations for them.

Some things have happened in history, however, that science simply can’t explain. These events could not have occurred unless God intervened. We see this over and over in the Christmas story, which is rich with evidence of God’s work even before Jesus was conceived in Mary’s body. If we could ask Zechariah and Elizabeth (see Luke 1:5-25,57-80), they doubtless would confirm God’s intervention—but let’s learn from Mary, the mother of Jesus herself. She was directly involved in one of the biggest miracles ever to have happened!

When Mary received a visit from Gabriel and learned that she would give birth to God’s Son, she naturally had a question. “Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?’” (Luke 1:34). It was a great question! Gabriel “replied to her: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God’” (v. 35).

The mystery of the incarnation—God’s becoming a man without ceasing to be God—must ultimately be accepted by faith, for it can never be fully understood by human minds. Yet Gabriel gave Mary—and he gives us—a glimpse of some of the things that were involved in Jesus’ conception.

  • The baby would be conceived and would begin to grow in Mary’s womb as a result of the Holy Spirit’s activity and God’s power. This does not mean Jesus’ life would begin in Mary’s womb. No, this wasn’t the case at all, for Jesus has existed from eternity past. (Note what John the Baptist, who was born at least several months before Jesus, said when He saw Jesus at the onset of His—Jesus’—ministry: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who has surpassed me, because He existed before me’” [John 1:30]). Instead of beginning to exist at the point of His conception, Jesus would, to put it rather primitively, relocate or move into a human body, tiny though it was when the conception occurred.
  • “The power of the Most High will overshadow you,” Gabriel told Mary (Luke 1:35). The idea of overshadowing or enveloping in a shadow has caused many to recall manifestations of God’s presence in the Old Testament when the Israelites were led by God through the wilderness after being freed from bondage in Egypt (see 25:2240:34-38; also see Gen. 1:21 Kings 8:10-11Isa. 60:2Ezek. 1:28Matt. 17:5Luke 2:9Heb. 9:5). While it probably is appropriate to make this connection, we must acknowledge that when God overshadowed Mary, He performed a miracle of creation and transcendence that was unparalleled in all of history.
  • “Therefore,” Gabriel said, “the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The birth that would result would not come because of Joseph’s actions or because of any human influence whatsoever. This was God’s doing, and the One to be born would be God’s own Son.

We are reminded here of John’s inspired words in John 1:12-13: To all who welcomed Jesus into their lives, “He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, [and here we see a truth that parallels Jesus’ conception and birth] not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” The miraculous conception that took place in Mary’s body, as unique as it was (a once-in-history occurrence), parallels the genesis of spiritual life in otherwise spiritually dead people today! As Ravi Zacharias has noted, “Jesus Christ did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”1

Mary knew that within herself she had no power to generate divine life, so of course such a thing could happen only as a result of God’s power. Mary simply would be a willing participant in the process. So it is with us when we exercise faith in Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Through God’s power, we become His children—not divine ourselves, but born to new life by divine power. These are authentic miracles!

Copyright © 2015 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Explore various aspects of the first Christmas with a new Word Foundations feature: Breaking Bread. Visit http://www.wordfoundations.com/breaking-bread-the-birth-of-jesus/

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Note:

1Ravi Zacharias, quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 219.

A Christmas Study: “How Can This Be?”

[Today] you will hear people say, “The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.” Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the cause of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense: and the story of the Virgin Birth is a particularly striking example. When St. Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men. No doubt the modern gynecologist knows several things about birth and begetting which St. Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point—that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And St. Joseph obviously knew that.
C. S. Lewis

Among the top 25 Super Bowl ads of all time is this Xerox ad, which aired on Sunday, January 18, 1976.

Of course, the “punch line” of this ad is the Father’s concluding exclamation, “It’s a miracle!” Especially today, nearly 40 years later, the ad reminds us of a host of now commonplace occurrences that would have been considered miraculous centuries ago, a hundred years ago, and even just a few decades ago. Indeed, technology has brought us to a world where amazing things happen. For example, we have instant messaging through email, cell phones, and video platforms like Skype. And surely both Brother Dominic and the Father would consider it miraculous that many people have copy machines, in the form of printers, in their own homes. While to some extent these innovations may seem miraculous even to us, we know there are scientific explanations for them.

Some things have happened in history, however, that science simply can’t explain. These events could not have occurred unless God intervened. We see this over and over in the Christmas story, which is rich with evidence of God’s work even before Jesus was conceived in Mary’s body. If we could ask Zechariah and Elizabeth (see Luke 1:5-25,57-80), they doubtless would confirm God’s intervention—but let’s learn from Mary, the mother of Jesus herself. She was directly involved in one of the biggest miracles ever to have happened!

When Mary received a visit from Gabriel and learned that she would give birth to God’s Son, she naturally had a question. “Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?’” (Luke 1:34). It was a great question! Gabriel “replied to her: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God’” (v. 35).

The mystery of the incarnation—God’s becoming a man without ceasing to be God—must ultimately be accepted by faith, for it can never be fully understood by human minds. Yet Gabriel gave Mary—and he gives us—a glimpse of some of the things that were involved in Jesus’ conception.

  • The baby would be conceived and would begin to grow in Mary’s womb as a result of the Holy Spirit’s activity and God’s power. This does not mean Jesus’ life would begin in Mary’s womb. No, this wasn’t the case at all, for Jesus has existed from eternity past. (Note what John the Baptist, who was born at least several months before Jesus, said when He saw Jesus at the onset of His—Jesus’—ministry: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who has surpassed me, because He existed before me’” [John 1:30]). Instead of beginning to exist at the point of His conception, Jesus would, to put it rather primitively, relocate or move into a human body, tiny though it was when the conception occurred.
  • “The power of the Most High will overshadow you,” Gabriel told Mary (Luke 1:35). The idea of overshadowing or enveloping in a shadow has caused many to recall manifestations of God’s presence in the Old Testament when the Israelites were led by God through the wilderness after being freed from bondage in Egypt (see Ex. 25:22; 40:34-38; also see Gen. 1:21 Kings 8:10-11; Isa. 60:2; Ezek. 1:28; Matt. 17:5; Luke 2:9; Heb. 9:5). While it probably is appropriate to make this connection, we must acknowledge that when God overshadowed Mary, He performed a miracle of creation and transcendence that was unparalleled in all of history.
  • “Therefore,” Gabriel said, “the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The birth that would result would not come because of Joseph’s actions or because of any human influence whatsoever. This was God’s doing, and the One to be born would be God’s own Son.

We are reminded here of John’s inspired words in John 1:12-13: To all who welcomed Jesus into their lives, “He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, [and here we see a truth that parallels Jesus’ conception and birth] not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” The miraculous conception that took place in Mary’s body, as unique as it was (a once-in-history occurrence), parallels the genesis of spiritual life in otherwise spiritually dead people today! As Ravi Zacharias has noted, “Jesus Christ did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”1

Mary knew that within herself she had no power to generate divine life, so of course such a thing could happen only as a result of God’s power. Mary simply would be a willing participant in the process. So it is with us when we exercise faith in Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Through God’s power, we become His children—not divine ourselves, but born to new life by divine power. These are authentic miracles!

Copyright © 2015 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Explore various aspects of the first Christmas with a new Word Foundations feature: Breaking Bread. 

Breaking Bread: The Birth of Jesus

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Note:

1Ravi Zacharias, quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 219.

The Need for Thanksgiving

We are blessed in the United States to have a special holiday set aside for thanking God, but today the media and popular culture emphasize Black Friday to a greater extent than Thanksgiving. As grateful people, we will stand out in such a culture, and God will use our gratitude to Him for His glory. We learn a great deal about the importance of thanksgiving (not the holiday, but the act of giving thanks) in Luke 17:11-19.

11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

This event reflects, and consequently reminds us of, several realities.

  • First, while all should be thankful, gratitude is a rare commodity. In this incident, just one out of ten returned to Jesus to give thanks. Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?”
  • Second, while certainly all ten men must have been relieved to have been healed, there’s a big difference between being relieved and being grateful. Quite often, once a crisis has passed, we forget our indebtedness to God. This apparently was true for nine of the ten who were healed.
  • Third, it is the nature of a grateful heart to express thanks. Unexpressed thanks isn’t really thanks at all. If you genuinely are thankful, you’ll find ways to express your gratitude. Luke tells us that the grateful man “returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.”
  • Fourth, expressions of gratitude may surprise us. Luke tells us that the one returning “was a Samaritan.” After He observed that just one out of ten returned to Him, Jesus said, “Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Let’s make sure that we’re consistently thankful, thereby at times surprising others with our expressions of thanks.
  • When the ten lepers asked Jesus for mercy and thus for healing, Jesus responded by telling them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” They obeyed, and “as they went, they were cleansed.” It is significant that in order to return and offer thanks, the healed Samaritan postponed his obedience. We assume he followed through after thanking Jesus, but the postponement to offer thanks was appropriate and necessary. Accordingly, our fifth observation is that, like the nine other healed men, we can get caught up in doing something good and right but fail to fulfill our greater responsibility of expressing gratitude. Jesus didn’t say to the man who returned, “Didn’t I tell you to go to the priest?” Rather, He commended him for returning and praising God.
  • Sixth, gratitude has tremendous benefits for the grateful person. Jesus told the healed Samaritan, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
  • Seventh, gratitude to God and faith are intertwined. While Jesus didn’t tell the healed Samaritan his gratitude had made him well, He commended him for praising God—something he wouldn’t have done had he not been grateful. Then Jesus told him his faith had made him well. It takes faith in God to express thanks to Him. Keep in mind that we can’t please God without faith (see Heb. 11:6).

Thanksgiving, you see, is essential for the believer. May we be people who are grateful for the blessings we have, and may we always express gratitude to the God who is the source of those blessings.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.