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Griping or Gratitude

Scripture: Luke 17:12-19, Psalms 38:7-8, Leviticus 13:46
Date: 11/24/2012 
What is the purpose of life? "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." We live for the glory of God and one way to glorify God is to give thanks.
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Did you get to spend some time with family this week? How many of you made a phone call and told somebody Happy Thanksgiving? That’s sort of a time of year that Christians can in a particular sense get behind. I mean of all the holidays, a time to give thanks is very biblical and it’s something that I think that we can all embrace and celebrate together. It’s also a good time for us to just ponder all of the blessings that God has given us, to count our blessings.

You know, we have a tendency some times to complain. What do you think? I mean, if I wanted to I could get you going. I could talk about the government and we could start complaining about that, we could talk about our job. Anyone have complaints about their health? There’s all the things that we can complain about. Do you know any people that you’d like to talk about? Or I don’t know, let’s talk about complaining. Anyone want to complain? Kind of comes naturally doesn’t it; to murmur, to grumble, to complain. And that’s really the title of the message today, ‘Grumbling, Griping or Gratitude.’ It’s going to be based on a passage of scripture we’ll get to in just a moment, which is Luke 17:12.

Now, we’ve talked about this a few years ago, but I thought it’s time to visit it again, maybe with a little different angle, but I’d like to begin by telling you a story about Fred Hargesheimer. Fred Hargesheimer. He was a World War II pilot flying in the South Pacific. He was flying a P-38. He was part of a photographic reconnaissance team and as he was flying over the Island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea, all of a sudden his engine cowling peeled back and he wondered what that meant and then it burst into flames. And he discovered that he had been hit and he looked over his shoulder and sure enough he was being followed by a Japanese fighter that was after him. He dove and tried to evade the plane, but the engine burst into flames and he realized there was nothing left to do but to bail out.

He had been injured with some shrapnel when the engine was shot, but he managed to open the canopy and with the very primitive parachutes they had during World War II, he jumped out of the plane over the jungle in New Guinea. Well, that was dangerous enough as it was because you could very easily hit a tree even with a parachute or be suspended hundreds of feet up in the air, but he managed to get down from the tree.

He survived, but now he was in an area that was really occupied by the Japanese and he didn’t know if he’d be caught. Well, in your parachute gear they gave you a little bit of survival things like some fish line and some maps and I think he had two chocolate bars and all that had to keep him alive for the next 31 days as he wandered around in the jungle, sometimes in delirium, had nothing to eat but snails, trying to avoid the Japanese and find his way to the coast where he hoped that maybe he could flag down a friendly ship or something.

But after that time in the jungle, he stumbled upon some of the natives from a tribe. They were from the Nakani tribe. They took him in knowing that the Japanese would kill them for doing so. They put their lives on the line, they took him in, they sheltered him, they fed him, they protected him for four months until they were able to get him connected with an Australian team that was watching the coast. They called them the Coast Watchers. And eventually the Australian partner connected him with a US Navy ship and he was passed off, survived, awarded.

And after the war was over and he settled back in Minnesota and worked as an engineer, raised a family, he kept thinking for years he wanted to do something to show appreciation for that tribe that had put their whole tribe, that whole village on the line to protect and to feed and to rescue and take care of him. And so he decided, he contacted some Missionaries and he said what can I do for these people? He knew that they were kind of watching over this district where this tribe was in New Britain and he decided to raise money to build a school. So he built them a school and then he helped make improvements on the school.

And then finally, he and his wife after their kids were all raised they thought, you know, we ought to show our gratitude by going back and doing something for them. And so he basically left his home in Minnesota for four years. He and his wife in 1970 to 1974, they went back to show their thanks and they lived among the villagers and worked there as missionaries for four years. Made several other trips over time, came back, matter of fact they wrote a book about it and it’s called The School that Fell from the Sky. It’s kind of an interesting story. He went back again the last time when he was 90 in 2006 because they had found his P-38 that had been missing in the jungle that had crashed and he went back actually to the place and he saw his airplane.

Well, Fred Hargesheimer has passed on since then, but I thought that was a beautiful illustration of somebody that realized after someone has done something so generous to save your life, it might be nice to do something to show your thanks and so he went back.

Do we sometimes forget to go back and to be thankful to those that have shown goodness to us or have been a blessing to us? Now that takes us to our story that’s in Luke 17:12 and I’d like to invite you to read this with me. By the way, you’re only going to find this in the Gospel of Luke in this passage.

Luke 17:12-19, do you have your bibles? It’s a story about the one leper who was healed that returned. “Then as He entered a certain village there met him ten men who were lepers that stood afar off and they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ So when He saw them He said to them, ‘Go show yourself to the priest and it was so.’ As they went they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, he returned and with a loud voice, he glorified God and he fell down on his face at His feet giving Him thanks. He was a Samaritan. And Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine? Were there not any who found to return and give Glory to God except for this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise and go your way, your faith has made you well.’

Well, I’d like to take a few moments and look carefully at this story about that one leper who came back and offered thanks to God. First of all, you’ve got ten men with leprosy. Leprosy is found dozens of times in the bible. Matter of fact, you can find it 68 times in the bible, 55 times in the Old Testament, and 13 times in the New Testament. Back in the time of Christ, if a person had leprosy it meant to be smitten. In the Old Testament it meant you’re smitten with a disease. And leprosy was a terrible disease. It represented a very slow death.

Matter of fact, I printed out a little more information on leprosy. In America we don’t have a lot of leprosy, but as I’ve traveled in Africa and India and other parts of the world, you’ll still run into people who are suffering the terrible affects of leprosy. And I don’t recommend it, but if you look at images of leprosy online, you’re going to find that it is a shocking in its advanced stages and a revolting picture of what it does to people.

Leprosy is not a disease where you just start falling apart because your limbs are dropping off as some people think. It really affects the nerve endings. Leprosy is a disease caused by the Microbacterium leprae. This bacterium affects the body’s nervous system concentrating on the cooler parts of the body; affected skin areas, the eye, muscles, hands and feet. And there are two different initial reactions to the disease. Some people develop clearly defined pale skin patches indicating the bacterium is isolated in one area. In more extreme cases where the patient has no resistance to the disease, there’s very little definition between the patches and the healthy skin. With this type of case it’s much more difficult to detect the disease in its early stages.

As the disease progresses the symptoms only get worse. Numbness in the hands and the feet make the patient vulnerable to cuts and infection that cannot be felt. Stiffened muscles cause clawed hands, loss of the blinking reflex leads to total blindness, and in some cases, amputation of fingers, arms, or a leg is necessary.

They don’t feel, they lose their sensation, and you can have your hand on a fire and it’s burning and you don’t know and it can lead to infection and amputations. And I remember trying to give some money to a beggar, a leper in India, and it was a lady that actually had two stumps on her hands because she’d lost all of her fingers. And I had to kind of press the money down into her hand and she had to hold it with her two palms because that’s all she had left. And you’ll see people like that when they’ve lost their limbs and it’s not a pretty thing. You’re also declared to be unclean.

Leprosy is an infectious disease transmitted through airborne droplets such as when someone sneezes or coughs. But most people, about 95 percent of the population, are naturally immune, yet there are over 1,100 new cases of leprosy detected every day. You probably didn’t know that.

You know, some of these people that work in leper colonies, they took a great risk. They were hoping they were among the ones that were immune to it. But, you know, a lot of people that went to help lepers in colonies, whether they were in Hawaii or Africa or India, came down with the disease. You’ve got to have a lot of love for the Lord and humanity to work in a leper colony knowing over time there’s a high probability that you would be exposed to it.

People who contract leprosy are affected both physically and socially. The disease has been around since biblical times. The myths, the fear, the stigma surrounding it still remains strong. From small children to older adults, people with leprosy are ostracized, shamed, and forced out of their communities and homes. The person with the disease is usually so humiliated and frightened they go into hiding, failing to get treatment as the disease worsens.

Now today there is treatment for Hanson’s disease or leprosy that will arrest the spread of it, but still many people because they’re ostracized they don’t go and they don’t get the help.

In the time of Christ there was no treatment. You basically were waiting to die and it wasn’t an instant death. According to the bible, when a person had leprosy, they were separated from everybody that was healthy. The very word implies that you’ve been judged by God.

Now can you think in the bible of some people that had leprosy as a result of a judgment? Miriam received leprosy. It was a judgment from God for bad behavior. She was cleansed. Gehazi, do you remember the greedy servant of Naaman? As a judgment from God he got leprosy. And then King Uzziah, he went into the Temple of the Lord to do what only the priests were supposed to do and he was stricken with leprosy.

So when a person got leprosy, the natural reaction in the time of Christ is the time to think this is a judgment from God. So there was also the stigma that you did something wrong, that God was especially angry with you.

You’d been touched by the finger of God and smitten with leprosy.

Also, they understood that there was something contagious about the nature of it, so they were separated. But it represented a type of sin. A lot of bible commentators will tell you leprosy is a type of sin. It represents the depravity. Some have wondered if Isaiah wasn’t referring to leprosy when he says in Chapter 1 talking about sin, Isaiah 1:5, ‘Why should you be stricken again.’ Leprosy meant to be smitten. ‘You will revolt more and more, the whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness or healthiness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores, they’ve not been closed up or bound or soothed with ointments.’

And again, David may be referring to this in Psalm 38:7-8. ‘My loins are filled with a loathsome disease and there’s no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore and broken.’ Leprosy is a type of sin. It also separates. If a person had leprosy they had to stand afar off. You notice that Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, probably His last trip to Jerusalem when this happens. Before He even gets into the town, as He’s approaching this town these men are standing, what? Afar off. Those who had leprosy were considered separated from society because of their sin.

You read about this in Leviticus 13:46. ‘The whole time that the skin rash infects him, he will be unclean. He is to live by himself in a home outside the encampment.’ Lepers have their own colonies where they live by themselves.

Some of you remember the story in 2 Kings Chapter 6 where there was a great famine in Samaria and all the people in the Samaria were starving, but outside the city walls there were four men who were still alive. All the others from the leper colony had died except these four men and it said that they were starving, but they couldn’t go in the city because of their leprosy. And so these men, they stopped Jesus before He even got to town. They thought this is our only chance before He even got into town to refresh Himself. They called out to Him from afar off.

Now, I just want to do a check. Are some of you warm? [Yes.] We need to elect as a church office the official human thermostat. That we need a deacon in charge of the thermostat. This seems this happens; it’s cold in the morning. Can we open some side doors? Can we have volunteers if there are no deacons handy open the side doors a little bit and let some air in here? It’s a beautiful day out there. I see you right now ‘haa’ and I’m not doing it. I can’t be accused of all the hot air in the place. So yeah, let’s, okay heat off, air in, very good. If we all inhale at the same time theoretically we’ll suck some of it in, create a vacuum.

All right, so leprosy would separate you from others. And again, Numbers 5:1-2, “The Lord spoke saying ‘Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper.’” How would you like to have the priest who was the doctor in the community declare that you had leprosy and say go. I know what He means when He says go, is you are to leave the city, you can never for the rest of your life come back in. You can’t go into any city. You’ve got to live out in the city of the dead, which is where the lepers lived. You cannot live with your family anymore. You cannot embrace your wife or your children, or if it’s a woman, your husband. It was terrible, terrible disease. That’s why the story of Naaman is so exciting that this little girl thought there is a prophet who can cleanse somebody of his leprosy. She probably believed that because the Lord had healed Miriam of her leprosy.

Sin separates. When you think in the bible about Luke tells a story about a publican and a tax collector and it says the tax collector is standing afar off. These lepers were afar off. These ten lepers really represent the human race that is dying from sin. A slow deadly contagious disease. That’s what sin is. Leprosy, like sin, makes you lose your sensitivity to what is dangerous or what could hurt you. And they were separated from their family, from their God, they were outcasts, and so they’re calling out to Jesus.

Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from God. And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear.” Sins separates just like leprosy. So they call out to Jesus and they’re asking for mercy and what do they say? First of all they call Him Master. Now if we want to be cleansed from our sin it’s a good idea to ask; do they ask? They recognize Him as Lord and Master. And then they’re not saying we deserve this. What are they asking for? They’re saying have mercy on us. And that really is our best appeal.

Now why would these lepers, ten of them come to Jesus and say Lord have mercy on us? You know, I believe that they knew about another experience that was widely advertised where Jesus had healed somebody of leprosy.

You notice we’re reading Luke 17. If you jump back in your bible to Luke 5, it says, Luke 5:12, “It happened when he went to certain place behold there was a man full of leprosy.” Now Luke being a doctor when he says full of leprosy, he didn’t just have a little white patch here or there, but one of the things that leprosy does it can also cause bulbous growths on the body and deep furrowed wrinkles and tumors and it can be revolting and a person is blind and they’re covered with patches because of the wounds and bandages and this man who is full of leprosy comes and he approaches Jesus. Now the crowd probably shrank back a leper was supposed to cover themselves and whenever they are near anybody clean they were to give them warning. And they were to say unclean, unclean.

I heard about this man who was put in prison because he knew that he had AIDS and he deliberately was trying to infect other people by spitting on them and putting his blood on them. And they decided that was illegal. You had a moral obligation to let a person know if you were going to risk contaminating them. And so you were supposed to cover yourself and say unclean.

And so this man came to Jesus and he went right up to Him and he said Lord I believe if you will, you can make me clean. Now this is the first record of anyone being healed by Jesus from leprosy. And instead of Jesus running away, it says “He reached out His hand and touched him.” Now one of two things is going to happen when Jesus touches the leper, either that man is going to be cleansed or Jesus is going to get contaminated. And it says He said, “‘I am willing.’ And He put out his hand and He touched him and immediately the leprosy left him.”

Now, Jesus told that man don’t say anything to anybody but did he listen? Could you keep it to yourself if you were in that condition and you were full of leprosy and you were falling apart and all of a sudden your fingers pop back into place and your missing toes just, you know, just pop back into place? I don’t know what it sounds like. And all of a sudden you’re whole again. You can now go home and you can see your family, you can hug your children, you can go back to church again. You’re were ostracized from the church, too, because you’re unclean. That man, Jesus said don’t say anything. Not that He didn’t want him to be thankful, but He knew it was going to inhibit His work. So that man went everywhere and broadcast widely what Jesus had done for him.

Well, eventually word reached the leper colonies, Jesus heals. And these ten men had heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem for the feast and He was going to be going right through their town. So they were scanning the horizon from a distance and as soon as they saw Christ coming with His apostles and maybe there was a procession with Him, they all went as close as they dare go.

According to the Rabbis, one rabbinic tradition says that when a person had leprosy they had to stand at least a hundred paces away from anyone healthy. So I don’t know how far that is, that might be a hundred paces, that’s further than from here to the courtyard I expect. So you have to call pretty loud. They didn’t know if they’d get Jesus’ attention.

Now one thing that a hundred percent of them, there were ten of them, one thing they do in unison is call for help. They all call for help. But out of the ten that called for help, after they’re healed, only one of them comes back and gives thanks.

You know, when it comes to making requests of God, yeah, a lot of people make requests. I heard that during Christmastime the post office used to get, I don’t know if kids do it anymore, but they used to write letters to Santa Claus and they said they would get thousands of letters making requests to this imaginary Santa Claus. You know, they were addressed to the North Pole or something; very rarely did they ever get a letter of thanks from any of the children.

Well, on a more realistic note, a soldier in the Third Army after fighting on the frontlines, Patton had established these camps where they would get some R and R, one of these soldiers went to the camp where he had, I don’t know what the time period was, but he had a couple of weeks of R and R where he could recover and refresh and he wrote a letter to Patton and said I want to thank you for the excellent treatment and food I received at the rest camp before he went back to the front lines. And Patton wrote him back and he said, ‘I’ve been in the service for 35 years and I do my best to take care of my troops. I want you to know you are the first soldier that ever wrote me a letter to thank me for the camp.’ It just gives you an idea of the ratio.

It’s like that old legend, two angels left heaven to collect prayer requests and collect praise and thanks. And they both brought their baskets and one came back and his baskets were spilling over with all the requests from humanity, but the angel who went with the basket to collect the praises and thanks, his baskets were practically empty and you wonder if sometimes that’s the way we are. We have so many things that we think to ask God for, but we often forget to thank the Lord.

A couple was sitting in church one day and one of the families in church got up and said, you know, we’d like to give $10,000 in honor of our son who died in the military for this new facility. And the wife sitting out in the congregation elbowed her husband and she said why don’t we give $10,000 for our son. He said, well our son didn’t die. She said exactly. She says, you know, instead of just thanking the Lord for the one that was lost. It’s like the pastor I heard he shocked his congregation one day and during prayer he said, Lord, we want to pray for the families because there are 20 families in our church that have lost loved-ones. And everybody was shocked and they said, who is that. And he said, yeah they died while traveling. What happened, we hadn’t heard about this. It was not a very big congregation. He said well the only thing I can figure he said, we had about 25 requests for traveling mercies, but I only got five requests to thank the Lord for safe return. I’m assuming the others all died when they were traveling. But isn’t that the way we are?

You know, we thank the Lord or we ask a lot more than we remember to thank the Lord for the things that might be missing. So it tells us that they came to the Lord and they asked for mercy. They recognized he was Master in Unison.

You know, Jesus said, Luke 6:36, “Therefore be merciful just as your Father in heaven is merciful.”

Psalm 103:8, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.” What’s our most eloquent appeal when we come to the Lord and we ask for anything? Lord have mercy on us. When the thief was on the cross dying next to Jesus, what was his appeal? He said, Lord remember me. All he could ask for was mercy. He’d shown the old man what is good, and what does the Lord require of thee but to do justly to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. God is a merciful God.

So what percentage of these lepers obeyed Christ’s instructions? A hundred percent. He said go show yourself to the priest. Now why were they doing that? Because of this old Levitical law that Moses dreamed up. Who gave Moses this old Levitical law? Jesus did. Jesus was telling them to follow the very law that He had given. Of course this is when the Levitical Priesthood was still intact at this point and it was a priest who would say -- the priests were the doctors, you know, God gave all the health laws to the priests.

And so they were to examine a person when they had leprosy, they would pronounce them unclean and if for whatever reason a person was believed cleansed from leprosy, then it was the priest that would say you’re clean, you’re free to go. And there was a special offering.

Matter of fact, if you read Leviticus 14, there’s a whole chapter in the bible that has this very interesting sacrifice and offering and ritual that they would go through and they would make doing things with birds and water and ashes and all kinds of strange things for cleansing from leprosy. And you wonder why did God go to such great lengths to have a whole ceremony and this whole ritual just for cleansing from this one disease when there’s so many other diseases? Because the disease of leprosy is a type of sin.

And when you study Leviticus 14, by the way I’ll just read this verse, one and two, “Thus the Lord spoke unto Moses saying this is the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing.” It’s interesting that God would have that because for common leprosy there was no cure. “He’ll be brought to the priests.” And then it tells about the ritual.

Leviticus 13:2, “When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising scab or bright spot in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy then he’ll be brought to Aaron the Priest or to one of the sons of the priest.’ And so Jesus, when He told these lepers go show yourself to the priest, He was basically saying I’m going to cleanse you from leprosy, I want you to now follow through with the law that I prescribed for cleansing from leprosy.

Now, this I think is one of the most important verses in the bible, what I’m getting ready to say. I don’t know if that would make any difference with your attention, but I’m serious. It really is important.

It says in Luke 17:14, did you ever think of this as a very important verse? “As they went they were cleansed.”

Now why is that such an important verse, Pastor Doug? Here they are lepers, He says I want you to go and show yourself to the priest, I want you to make the offering for cleansing from leprosy, but why would they make that offering for cleansing from leprosy while they still had leprosy? They could have argued with the Lord and said, all right Lord, it’s a deal, we’ll go show ourselves to the priest, but heal us first. He didn’t say look for your healing first, He said I want you to go and show yourself to the priest. They needed to have faith in what Jesus was telling them to do. It says, “As they went they were cleansed.” Now, this is something that is just so important. “As they went they were cleansed.” You know, it’s in doing God’s will, His power is released.

When the Disciples were rowing across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus when sent them across the sea, they encountered a terrible wind. And when He finally got in the boat it says they were rowing when He got in the boat. And because they were rowing when He got in the boat they were instantly at their destination. There was a man who was not able to walk for 38 years and Jesus said arise and walk. As soon as he made an effort to see if his limbs would work the miracle happened.

Maybe you’ve got a problem. We’re all sinaholics and let’s just say for the sake of illustration you struggle with smoking. I pick that a lot. And the Lord says I want to set you free from that. How do you get free? Maybe it’s not smoking, maybe it’s alcohol or a drug or just whatever the problem is. You take the first step of believing that the Lord has set you free.

I’ve often had people say, Pastor Doug, I want the Lord to save me from my smoking. I say all right, well, let’s pray right now. I’m ready, let’s pray. And I say okay, but before we pray let’s throw away our cigarettes. Wait a second. I did a smoking seminar once when I was young and naive and the first thing I told people I said, here’s the garbage can, let’s throwaway your cigarettes. That’s probably not the right way to start the seminar. It scared them half to death. But I wanted to know if they were serious.

If you want God to release His power in your life, for victory you take the first step when you know what He wants you to do. When you know what God wants you to do. And He says, all right, you want cleansing from leprosy, then you go, show yourself to the priest. Don’t argue with God, that doesn’t take faith. You take the first steps and act like you believe that He’s going to do what He said He’s going to do.

And as you take those first steps of faith, when the children of Israel were going to cross the Jordan River and it was flooding, He told the priest that were carrying the heaviest object, I mean that ark was virtually an anchor, it was going to sink them like a stone to the bottom of the river. He said I want the ones carrying the ark to step out in the water. And it would have been over their heads and as their feet touched the water then the miracle happened and the water stopped flowing. Ingoing they were cleansed.

So often we spend our lives waiting for God to work a miracle for us. It’s like a person who says, you know, I would keep the Sabbath Day, but I’d lose my job. Well, maybe you ought to tell your boss you’re not working Sabbath anymore and see if He doesn’t work a miracle for you. God’s been wanting to work a miracle for you for years, but you’ve not taken that first step of faith. You’re waiting for everything; you’re waiting for the healing before you go to the priest.

See how this principle, I told you it was important. It applies all through the Christian life. Once you know what God is telling you to do, when you make the first human effort to do, God’s giving you a will; he’s giving you a certain amount of individual strength and resolve. When you surrender your will to Him and you take the first steps to do what He wants you to do, ingoing they were cleansed.

You know, the Lord has told us to go and to share the gospel with every creature, but you might say I can’t share the gospel with anybody because I still have sin. I still struggle with temptation. Well, you’re never going anywhere if you think like that. As you go and work to reach others you will be cleansed in the process.

God sent the apostles out preaching and teaching before they were thoroughly converted. How many of you know that? So you wait until you’re perfect before you start telling other people about Christ, you’re not going to do anything. You’ve got to take the first steps. As they went they were cleansed. Is there some area in your life where you’re just kind of waiting on God and God’s waiting on you and nobody’s going anywhere?

If you know what the Lord wants you to do, the longer you wait to do the Will of God, the harder it gets. You take those first steps. Don’t argue with Jesus. When He said go show yourself to the priest, not one of these men argued. They all went. Maybe they looked at each other and thought I don’t know, are you going, I’m going, all right, let’s go. It may have seemed crazy to them, still covered with scabs and missing digits and wounds and they’re on their way to the priest to make an offering for cleansing. It didn’t make any sense; did it? But as they went they were cleansed.

You know, I think God wants to perform miracles for us as individuals and our families, I think he wants to perform miracles for churches. You know how many times we’ve taken steps of faith as a church and thought, well, I don’t know how that’s going to happen, but as we go then God says, oh I was just waiting for someone to pray a big prayer and then I’ll give you a big answer. You pray for big things and He gives you big answers. As they went they were cleansed. All of them did what they were commanded to do.

Now you know what makes this one leper, this unique leper standout? Did Jesus say, and after you realize you’re cleansed I want you to stop, do an about face, come back and thank me; did he command them to thank?

You know, do you ever feel like when you’re told to thank somebody that it’s really thanks? If you’re ordered to praise is it really praise? Or does real thanks need to come from the heart? Even if it is not from the heart those of you who are parents you’ve got to teach your kids to be thankful. You all know that’s true? Karen’s been real good. When the kids get a gift she says you need to write a thank you note. Tell people you’re thankful. At Amazing facts, when people make donations every month. Some people probably get tired of it, but we always think it’s important to send out a thank you letter, tell them that we appreciate it.

Someone once said, thanks paves the way for future benefits. Aren’t you more inclined to help someone who’s appreciative? Do you think God is different or maybe He’s instilled that within us? The reason we think that way is He thinks that way. I think God is more inclined to answer prayers for those who are thankful. I mean look at all the wonderful things that God did for Daniel. Daniel was so thankful that even when he was about to go to the lion’s den he knelt down and gave thanks to God. You’ve got to be pretty thankful, but some of us, we take everything for granted and we grumble and we gripe and complain when things don’t go and we can think of ten things that we’re disappointed with and forget a thousand things we have to be thankful for.

It’s like the lady that was out shopping one day and her little 5-year-old was carrying on and whining and crying, so the man in the vegetable section said, here sonny, here’s an orange. So he took the orange from the man and the mother said, Johnny, what do you say to the man? He handed it back to the man, peel it.

We think God owes us everything where we’ve got this entitlement mentality. And we do in our culture, too. We have an entitlement mentality. We think everything is owed to us. And we have so many blessings to be thankful for.

As they went they were cleansed. But one of them, now I don’t know what they were thinking, you know what, and I don’t blame that 90 percent of lepers, because if I was dying of leprosy and all of a sudden as I’m following this strange command to go to the priest and I looked down, they must have felt something, and all of a sudden their fingers and toes and noses, things came popping back into place and they looked at each other and one of them said, Eliase, your nose just came back. And he said, oh look at you, you can see again, or, you know, I don’t know what happened, but these were friends. They had been in a leper colony together and they were probably all giving each other high-fives and praising the Lord and jumping up and down and they couldn’t wait to go and be declared clean. You would be excited; wouldn’t you feel that way too?

And they were so excited that they never really thought about the one who had just made it all possible, except one of them paused as the others were racing forward and he stopped and he probably thought to himself, you know, I need to thank Him. And you know, another reason, do you remember what his nationality was? He was a Samaritan.

And so when the others were going to show themselves to the priests, Samaritan didn’t recognize the Jewish priests. He was just going with his buddies probably and wondered what would happen and when he was declared clean he thought, you know, when he found out he was healed, I’m going to go and I’m going to go to a different priest and be declared clean. He turned back to Jesus who is really the high priest isn’t He? And he decided why not thank the source. And so you can understand why the other nine went on their way just so exuberant and so excited. We’re often happy when we get an answered prayer, but if you’re like me, so many things, so many answered prayers that I forget to thank the Lord for.

You know, I just wanted to stop at some point during this sermon and I thought I wanted to give Glory to God publicly. And I want to tell you how much I’ve got to be thankful for.

I’m not going to wear you out with the rest of the sermon, but just a few things. I am so thankful for this church. I’m not saying this to try to get reelected, I’m saying it because really this -- we’ve entered our 20th year here next September and it has been such a blessing. You folks are pretty nice and you’ve been really good to us and I appreciate it.

I am so thankful for our pastoral staff here. Do you know how remarkable our staff is? Every one of them. Pastor Mike, Pastor Harold, Pastor Binus, Jan, and the whole team and our deacons and our elders and I’m just so thankful for our pastoral staff here and for the team. Everybody is so good. And so we all get along. We’re friends. Have you ever worked with someone that you didn’t get along with? That’s when you know you’ve got something to be thankful for.

And I’m so thankful for my health. If you’ve been sick, you know, when you’re young you take it for granted don’t you? You get a little older and you start thanking God for those days when nothing hurts. And it’s really nice, isn’t it? Praise the Lord. When they only hurt a little bit, you can even be thankful for those things.

Now think about what country you could be living in right now. Even with all the problems we might have with our government and the idea that they just raised taxes in California again, I’m still glad for all the blessings that we have. You know what the weather is like back East? We only have earthquakes, we don’t have hurricanes and tornadoes are very small out here. Think about all that we’ve got to be thankful for.

So many blessings and the freedoms that we enjoy and I could go down the list and I can’t even touch the ocean of things that we could thank the Lord for. But we often forget and we take it for granted. You know, sometimes the people who are the most thankful are the ones who do lose things. They realize all that they’ve got.

And Jesus said finally in Luke 17:15, “This one returned to God when he saw that he was healed and with a loud voice he glorified God.” He returned to Jesus and he glorified God and Jesus said in verse 18, “Were there not found any to return and to give Glory to God except this foreigner.”

What is the purpose of life? Whether you eat or whether you drink, whatever you do, do all to the Glory of God. We live for the Glory of God. What is one way to definitely glorify God? Giving thanks. This man came to give thanks to Jesus and in doing that he was glorifying God.

You know, one of the characteristics of a wicked culture, Romans 1, “Because although they knew God they did not glorify him as God nor were thankful.” Though the wicked and the barbarians who are lost that don’t know God and they don’t glorify God, nor are thankful. Notice the connection between living a life where you’re giving Glory to God and being thankful.

Are you afraid to thank God in public or do you thank God for your food when you’re eating in a public restaurant? Don’t be ashamed to let people see you pray and thank God. I’ve been standing in line sometimes and all of a sudden I’ll find out that something I thought was one price, they say oh no, this is on sale today and I’ll say, well, thank the Lord. Praise the Lord. And don’t you enjoy hearing other people say that? I mean we’re in such a Godless culture that the Lord wants witnesses that are, I don’t mean, you know, wear your religion on your sleeve and be obnoxious, but don’t be ashamed to give Glory to God and to thank the Lord for His blessings.

You know why the children of Israel wandered for 40 years? Think of what the Lord did for them. All the mighty signs and wonders and miracles God performed to save the children of Israel from Egypt and as soon as they cross over and they endure a little hardship they start to grumble and they start to gripe and they start to complain. And God put up with it for a long time didn’t he?

And they’d say, oh, there’s no water, you brought us out here to kill us and just got a little thirsty. Nobody died from thirst. Then he gives them water. Then they get a little hungry. Their provisions start to run out, oh you don’t love us, wish we were back in Egypt, brought us out here to kill us, would have been better to die in Egypt. And God gives them bread from heaven.

Then they’re attacked from behind by the Amalekites and they start to complain and God gives them victory. And it goes on and on for the first year as they go build the sanctuary. They kept complaining. Then they complained about the bread from heaven. When they say they’re hungry He gives them bread. They thought this was wonderful, then they get tired of it. Man, oh man, oh man. Every day, man, oh man, what’s for breakfast, banana. And they start complaining, then we want quail. And so God says, okay you want quail, I’ll give you quail. I’m going to give you quail three feet deep. I’m going to give you quail so you’re sneezing from feathers all day long. I’m going to give you quail until it comes out of your nose. That’s what he said, he said that. That meant you were going to eat quail until you vomited. Because they weren’t thankful for the angel food cake they were eating. So they ate like birdbrains and he gave them quail. Pardon the pun, I’m sorry, it didn’t work, did it?

And they started lusting after the fleshpots of Egypt, complaining, complaining, unsatisfied, unthankful. Finally when they got to the borders of the promised land, all they were supposed to do is just take this little foray in there and bring back the good word and they were going to cross over. Ten of them, notice the number ten, ten of them of the 12 spies came back and were ungrateful. They said oh, we’re going to die. It was bad, bad, bad, griping and grumbling. The people all wept and griped and grumbled that night and God said enough. You keep saying it would have been better to be back Egypt or die in the wilderness, you’re going to get your prayer. You’re going to die in the wilderness because you don’t appreciate what I’ve done for you so far, your children will appreciate the promised land.

And I wonder if God’s people have changed that much. Could we sometimes be repeating the history of ancient Israel and forgetting all the blessings and instead we grumble and gripe and complain?

You know why the devil was cast out of heaven? How sin began? Satan was unthankful for his position. He was ungrateful for what God had given him. He was the highest of the angels. You think he’d be thankful for that. He sang better than anybody. He had the most to be thankful for. Only one little thing, he wasn’t God. Instead of thanking God for being the most powerful created being he found the one thing he didn’t have, he focused on that, he became miserable. And all the misery you see in the world today is an extension of that lack of gratitude.

You know, Jesus didn’t command any of those lepers to come back and thank Him. He wanted it to be from the heart. And that one came back and Jesus said, and this one is a stranger. He wasn’t even a church member. But he had a spirit of gratitude.

You know, I hope we don’t come to take our cleansing from sin, our cleansing from leprosy for granted. Do you remember what it was like before when you were in the world before you knew Jesus? I don’t want to go back. We need to be thankful now and always friends. Amen.

You know, some have said, what in the world were those lepers thinking when they didn’t come back and thank Jesus? Someone wrote up a little speculation. One perhaps was waiting to see if the cure was real. One waited to see if it would last. One figured, oh well, I’ll see him and thank him later. Have you ever thought you’d thank someone later then you forget? One said well, I probably was on my way to getting better anyway. One decided I probably never really had leprosy to begin with. It was misdiagnosed. One said it’s probably because I’m going to see the priest, they get the credit. One probably forgot that he had leprosy. One said any Rabi could have done it. One said I thought I was getting better anyway. Who knows what they were thinking. But the bottom line is only one actually went back and said thank you Lord.

You know, the pastor who baptized me, he’d wake up every day and he used to sing that song. I don’t know if any of you even know it anymore, ‘Thank you Lord for saving my soul.’ You know that one? Yeah, well, I’m not going to sing it for you, but every morning he’d -- well, it says ‘Thank you Lord for saving my soul.’ I’m reluctant to sing. ‘Thank you Lord for making me whole. Thank you Lord for giving to me thy free salvation so great and free -- true and free.’ Huh? Yeah something like that.

Anyway, but every day he’d begin his day by singing thanks to God. I think that’s a good practice. The 31st we sometimes have New Year’s resolutions. Maybe right after Thanksgiving we ought to make a resolution that we start every day thanking the Lord. Kind of a shame that you’ve got to relegate all your thanks to one season in the year. Really ought to be the attitude that takes us all the way through the year. And, you know, we’re prone to forget, we’re prone to grumble and gripe; it’s just the selfish carnal nature. Sometimes it’s fun to complain, let’s admit it, right? But we should be encouraging each other to gratitude, to thankfulness. Amen.

You know, I just wanted to remind you of the last verse, Luke 17:19. “He said arise and go your way, your faith has made you well. Your faith has made you whole. He was cleansed because he believed the word of Jesus. He went, but he had to come back and thank Jesus.” That was just the desire in his heart. Do you feel gratitude in your heart today for the Lord?

I heard about this little girl in France, three years old. The town gave her a medal for courage because she was playing by a pool with a two-year-old friend who slipped into the pool. Well, she couldn’t swim herself, but she reached out in time to grab her friend’s head and grabbed her friend by the hair and pulled him up and kept his head above water while she screamed and called for help. Eventually help came and the little boy was saved, a little two-year-old boy. The little girl was given this medal by the town and awarded and she said, she didn’t seem too happy about it, she said, ‘I don’t know if I should have done it. He doesn’t like me anymore because I pulled his hair.’ Sometimes even the trials we go through we need to thank the Lord for, right, because God is working all things together for good.

You know, why don’t we sing about that, our closing hymn is going to be ‘For the Beauty of the Earth,’ 565. Let’s stand together as we sing our praises to God.

Are you grateful to God for blessings He has given you? Amen. Has God been good to you? Father in Heaven, we want to begin by asking You to forgive us for our sometimes murmuring, complaining, grumbling and griping. And Lord, we pray that You’ll help us to just recognize all that You’ve blessed us with, that we might forget not all of Your benefits. We may not remember them all, but help us to not forget them all. Lord I pray that You’ll be with each person here. Help us to count our blessings, just give us Your Spirit and help us to have that attitude and mind of appreciation. Lord I pray that You'll be with this church. Continue to bless, we have so much to thank You for, to praise You for. You've done so much Lord in us and through us and we give You the glory and we pray that especially this season when we're able to fellowship and visit with friends and family that we can just praise you and rejoice in You. Be with us now during the sabbath day and help us become more like You. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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