Thursday, October 6, 2016

Turning Works of Grace into Worship of Gratitude

KEY TEXT: Luke 17:17-19 Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." 

KEY THOT: Jesus expressed surprise that even though 10 lepers were healed, only one returned to give thanks. Firstly, this incident tells us something about the human nature--that gratitude is a rare (10%) quality. When we do something good, we should not expect to be thanked or appreciated. If we do, we will be disappointed 90% of the time. The gratitude hit rate is only 10%, so we expect 90% of people will just take our kindness for granted. Secondly, this incident also helps us know why gratitude is an expression of true faith. The question we want to examine today is why only the Samaritan returned to give thanks and not the other nine. Some possible answers are hinted by the way Scripture describes the incident:
  • “Now he was a Samaritan” (v.16): The Samaritan was treated with contempt because of their mixed blood. The Jews considered them as outsiders of the covenant. As an outsider to Israel’s covenant, the Samaritan would expect no favour from Israel’s God. But when he was healed, he was amazed by God’s grace extended to someone undeserving like him who did not see himself as God’s chosen people. And there is only one response when one feels one is getting what one doesn't deserve—amazement. gratitude and worship. So he returned to Jesus in order to express his gratitude by surrendering his life to Jesus as his Lord: “he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks” (v.16). Falling at Jesus' feet is an act of worship.
  • “Except this foreigner” (v.18): Implied in Jesus’ statement is that the other nine lepers were Israelites. It is easy for people inside the covenant to take God's goodness for granted as His chosen people. They might even develop an entitlement mentality: “God ought to show us favour because we are His special people.” So when God does something amazing, we are no longer surprised by God’s goodness. We may even think that we somehow deserve it since we have done our religious "duties" (e.g. read our bible daily, pray, actively serve in church, contribute to church offerings, faithful attendance at Sunday services, etc). Or we may even think we somehow deserve it because of our special status as His children. Like some rich kids in China and elsewhere who see themselves as "untouchable princes," deserving only the best treatment and favour, we may become immune to God's favour when shown to us. So the nine lepers saw no necessity to turn around to give thanks for they probably thought they deserved it.  Or God owed it them to confirm his goodness to Israel.
  • “Your faith has made you well” (v.19): What this incident ultimately reveals is the nature of true faith. While the other 9 nine lepers were healed as they obeyed Jesus’ command to “show yourselves to the priests” (v.14), Jesus commended only the faith of the returning Samaritan: "your faith has made you well". Faith that stops at receiving blessing from God but does not give back anything to him is not biblical faith. The kind of faith that God wants from us is not just faith to believe His power to heal but faith that returns his works of grace with worship of gratitude. The Samaritan demonstrated this kind of faith. The blessing of God doesn't just end in him and then he goes his only merry way. Instead, his faith in God causes him to change his orientation and he returned to Jesus to offer his worship of gratitude. 
God’s works in our lives are not meant to just enable us to live a good and comfortable life. The goal of God’s works of grace is to draw us back to himself so that we may return to Him to surrender ourselves to Him and offer to him our sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. If God’s works in our lives do not change our basic orientation of life (worldly ambition), then its ultimate purpose has been frustrated. While God rains on the righteous and unrighteous, He expects the righteous to turn God’s work of grace into worship of gratitude.

Father, thank You for Your amazing grace in our lives. Help us to return Your works of grace for us into worship of gratitude. Amen.

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