At church this morning, one theme that I heard was the importance of being thankful, not just for material blessings, but also for spiritual blessings.
I thought back to when I was living in New York City. I would listen
to a radio program on Sunday mornings that could probably be
characterized as hyper-dispensationalist. Its message was that we were
in the dispensation of grace. Whereas Jesus taught that God would not
forgive those who did not forgive others, the current dispensation
(promoted by Paul, the apostle of grace) says that we forgive others because God has already
forgiven us. We have God’s grace, it cannot be lost, and that then
motivates us to forgive others. The hyper-dispensationalist radio
program taught that some of the things that Jesus said were for another
dispensation, whereas Christians today are to follow Paul’s teaching
that one is saved by accepting God’s free grace in Christ.
I enjoyed listening to this program for a variety of reasons. It was
upbeat. It highlighted the diversity of Scripture. And it presented a
God of grace for whom I longed. I had long struggled with Jesus’
teaching that God would not forgive me if I didn’t forgive others, for I
had a difficult time putting away my grudges. I also felt unable to
obey Jesus’ commandments about love for others, since I was introvert,
and also because, well, I did not like people! I wasn’t looking for a
God who would excuse my sinfulness, mind you, but I wanted to know that
God loved and accepted me, as imperfect as I was. The Christianity that
I so often encountered in my own reading of the Bible focused on
obedience, commandments, and God’s wrath, and I was wondering if there
was a way to find in the Bible a nicer God who accepted me. That would
make it easier for me to love others, I thought!
Well, near Thanksgiving Day one year, I was listening to the radio
program, and the speaker on it was talking about being thankful to God
for spiritual blessings. These spiritual blessings included being saved
by grace, salvation being permanent (meaning one cannot lose it), being
accepted by God, and having eternal life and the hope of a glorious
future. We have been given so much, the message went, and thanksgiving
was a proper response to that! Moreover, the speaker was saying that
being thankful for God’s grace can help us to have a good attitude
during the challenges of each day. If we are cut off in traffic, the
speaker said, we don’t have to get too upset about that, for we are
saved by grace: God accepts us and loves us, and has a wonderful future
I had a hard time being thankful for spiritual blessings because I
was not sure that I even had them. I did not know if God loved me or
rejected me on account of my sins. I didn’t know if I was repentant
enough to get God’s favor. I didn’t know if I had eternal life.
I remember this incident with some fondness because listening to that
radio program presented me with the sort of spirituality that I
wanted. How are things with me nowadays? Well, I’m not sure how much
of the Bible is true, or if Christianity is even true. Maybe I will
some day find an understanding of Christianity that makes sense to me
and bears fruit in my life. I don’t have the extreme spiritual
insecurity that I once had, I will tell you that, but that’s not because
I accept a hyper-dispensationalist reading of Scripture, or a free
grace, once-saved-always-saved reading. Rather, I just accept that God
is loving, and that a loving God would care for everyone. If God is the
source of our moral laws, then God probably follows them himself.
That’s what I figure.
Anyway, I’ll stop here.