“Prepare to Give Thanks”
Prepare Our Hearts to Give Thanks to God!
Two toddlers sit and play with their toys. One reaches for the toy of the other, and what does the second toddler do? He or she will pull it close to keep it away from the child reaching for it. Did anyone have to teach the child to grab the toy in order to keep it from another? No. Keeping things for ourselves comes naturally. Keeping things for ourselves comes from our sinful nature.
We did this when we were little kids and we are still doing this as big kids, big people. People don’t change, at least when it comes to things like this. This can show up when you prepare your offering for church. If you are putting in your offering envelope whatever money you have in your pocket as you are leaving for church, if you are paying everything out for the month and the last thing is what is given here, you are giving a thank offering to God that is just leftovers. God is not looking for leftovers when you prepare your “thank-you” to Him for all He gives you.
Despite those old sinful habits that don’t change in us, it is possible for us to offer a sincere, heartfelt “thanks” to God for all He gives you. In fact, in His Word, God has a plan for His people to prepare their offerings with a heartfelt “thank-you.” This morning, we’ll be looking at God’s plan in His Word for you and your giving with this theme: Prepare Your Hearts to Give Thanks to God!
God provides everything you need to support this body and life. The Bible says that. The Catechism repeats that. God gives you your food, your clothes, your home, your health. God even gives you your money—the ability to bring it in. So how do you offer your thanks to God for all that He gives you?
When it comes to all this, Satan doesn’t want us to thank God or appreciate God. He wants us to forget or ignore God. But God says through Isaiah, “The Lord of hosts has sworn, ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.’” (14:24). God is here to help you. He can help you change (change!?!) from doing the same old thing, or a half-hearted thing, as you offer your “thank-you” to Him.
I want you to know that when we get done with these next few sermons, you might realize that what God’s Word says and what you are doing don’t match. You may also think at that point a change would be hard or damaging financially. (No bankrupt tithers) The devil doesn’t want you to change bad habits. He tempts us not to change.
James Belasco wrote a book about how difficult it is for people to make changes in their lives. Belasco uses the example of how to teach an elephant to dance. The first thing in teaching an elephant to dance is to train it to stand in one place. So the trainer, while the elephant is young, shackles one leg to a stake in the ground. Of course, the elephant stays shackled in that one place, never moving to another place. Later on, trainers find they can keep adult elephants in one place by putting a small metal bracelet on a leg and attaching it to . . . nothing! The elephant doesn’t move from that one place, as if it’s still shackled securely to that place.
That’s a picture of how Satan makes people think they don’t need to change, and this includes when it comes to preparing our thank offering. Satan makes people think they can’t change, or don’t have to change. It’s as if a person’s heart and thoughts are shackled/chained to stay in one place and can never move to doing something another way. It’s as if their heart has been set in stone and they can do things only one way.
God, among other things, is a good doctor. God makes the correct diagnosis of the problem. His people have heart trouble. We have hearts of stone. Only a heart transplant will correct the problem. God consults with His people about the transplant He’ll do. The surgery God will do is described in our text: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone . . . and give you a heart of flesh” (v 26). With new hearts, God’s people would now be free from Satan’s shackles, free to move around to make new decisions.
In our text, Ezekiel says that while God is doing the heart transplant, He also will give you an implant. V 27, the first part: “And I will put my Spirit within you.” Ezekiel was echoing the words of King David in Ps 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David was asking God to implant deep inside him a right, steadfast spirit. He wanted God to put a spirit in him that would not waver from God’s Word. Instead of the sin he had committed, David wanted to follow God’s direction for his life.
In King David’s day, unclean things and unclean people were made clean by the blood of sacrifices. Our heart transplants require a sacrifice, too. God’s heart was so broken over us and our sins that He gave His own Son to be the sacrifice. Jesus gave His life by being nailed to the cross, the all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of every evil heart.
Ezekiel also promised God’s people that God will use water to make them clean and renew them. Ezekiel promised, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses” (v 25). Just as Ezekiel promised, God sprinkled clean water on you. “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Martin Luther teaches, “With the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water . . . the new birth in the Holy Spirit” (SC, Baptism, Third Part).
God creates a clean heart in you and renews a right spirit within you. And this is the time we note that God has prepared some steps you can follow as you offer your thanks to Him. First, He helps us to think clearly on this, as Peter tells you: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action . . . set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you” (1 Pet 1:13).
God gives you a basic guideline in 1 Cor 16:2. Paul writes in the opening part of v 2, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper.” First, think of your thank offering each week, each Lord’s Day, each Sunday. Second, put your offering “aside and store it up.” Prepare ahead of time—not on your way to church on Sunday morning. Finally, prepare your thank offering in proportion to how God has blessed you—as the verse says: “as [you] may prosper.” Paul explains further in his second letter to the congregation at Corinth: “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord” (8:3). Each person prepares a thank offering according to what he or she is able to give—“according to their means.” And each person prepares it “of their own accord.” That is, according to what they have decided between themselves and God.
God is giving you that new heart, that new spirit, that new life. Jesus offered Himself on the cross and rose again to pay the price for all your sins, including the sin of offering a leftover as a way of saying “thank-you” to Him. You are freed from Satan. You are free to move ahead to a new way to offer your thanks to God for all He gives you.
God prepares your heart to thank Him for all that He does for you. Part of that preparation, we pray, will be through His Word over the next two Sundays. Our sermon next week will give more guidelines from His Word for preparing your thank offerings. And the sermon in two weeks will answer the question “Why do I climb into the offering plate?”
Do prepare our hearts to offer our thanks to you, O God.
In Jesus’ name.