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A PAGANIZED THANKSGIVING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, November 20, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21).


As we approach the last Thursday in November, every American is thinking about Thanksgiving Day. And I suppose nearly every preacher in our nation is trying to think of how to speak on this subject. Most of them will say a few things about the Pilgrims and the first American Thanksgiving. Many will call to our attention the fact that great Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863. And most will draw a moral lesson from it, telling their congregations that they should be thankful.

But as I approach the subject of thanksgiving I cannot bring myself to say much that is positive this morning. I feel I must instead deal with the dark and negative side of Thanksgiving, and speak on the text,

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21).

That verse sums up, in my thinking, the way most modern Americans treat this national holiday. The dark truth is that Americans as a whole are not a thankful people, and this is reflected in the gross materialism, gluttony and godlessness that sweeps over our nation at this time of year - so it can be said of our people, as it was of the ancient world,

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21).

I. First, the people of the ancient world were unthankful.

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21).

This describes the world of antiquity.

"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened"
     (Romans 1:21).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

Of course this contradicts all anthologies of religion that start with man in a very primitive condition as a caveman…and move him up intellectually and begin moving him toward God. This is absolute error. Man is moving away from God, and right now the world is probably farther from God than at any time in its history. The fact of the matter is that every primitive tribe has a tradition that way back in the beginning their ancestors knew God…Although they had a knowledge of God, they moved away from Him… "Neither were thankful." Ingratitude [to God] is one of the worst sins there is (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1983, volume IV, p. 653).

"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened"
     (Romans 1:21).

Dr. McGee continued by saying,

They moved into the darkness of paganism. You see living proof of this as you walk down the streets of Cairo in Egypt or of Istanbul in Turkey. In fact all you have to do is walk down the streets of Los Angeles to know that man's foolish heart is darkened (ibid.).

The ancient world once universally believed in God and worshipped Him. But, as the classical Bible commentator Matthew Henry pointed out, they descended into

idolatry every one. The barbarians adored the sun and the moon…while the Egyptians worshipped an ox and an onion. The [Greeks] who excelled them in wisdom, adored [worshipped] diseases and human passions. The Romans, the wisest of all, worshipped the furies. And…the poor Americans [the Indians] worship the thunder; while the ingenious Chinese [worship] the devil. Thus the world by wisdom knew not God
     (I Corinthians 1:21).

The nations of the world in early history are thus described in our text,

"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened"
     (Romans 1:21).

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21).

So thankless to God were the heathen nations of history that they plunged headlong into idolatry, and finally forgot the God that made them, turning instead to the worship of

"an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things" (Romans 1:23).

Go through any museum, and you will see the ancient idols of ancient times displayed there. These idols bear silent witness to our text, that the people who made these idols did so because they rejected the God their forefathers had known,

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21)

to the God that made them. Thus our text perfectly describes, not the evolution of religion, but the degradation of it, not the ascent of man to greater spiritual knowledge, but the descent of man into superstition, idolatry and spiritual darkness.

II. Second, the people of the last days are unthankful.

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21)

In one of the greatest prophetic passages in the New Testament the Apostle Paul described the religion of the "last days." I am convinced that what he wrote is a perfect prophecy of the day in which we live. And it is not a pretty picture. It is a description of our nation and our world descending into the same religious confusion and spiritual blindness that the pagan nations fell into long ago. Please turn to II Timothy 3:1-2. Let us stand and read these two verses aloud.

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy" (II Timothy 3:1-2).

Drop down to verse 5.

"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (II Timothy 3:5).

You may be seated.

Just as it was in ancient times, this prophecy tells us that the world of the "last days" would return to the unthankfulness of full-blown paganism. Notice one word near the end of II Timothy 3:2. That word is "unthankful." Dr. Henry M. Morris said,

"The ancient pagans [went into apostasy] with immeasurably tragic results in the history of the human race. Modern evangelicals, compromising with evolutionism and increasingly flirting with New Age pantheism, feminism and occultism, are in serious danger of starting down that same slippery slope (compare II Timothy 3:1-13)" (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender's Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995, note on Romans 1:22, "became fools").

Commenting on II Timothy 3:2, Dr. Morris said that this passage (II Timothy 3:1-13),

Seems particularly descriptive of the emphasis and attributes of modern evolutionary humanism. Furthermore, these characteristics seem to be a duplication of ancient pantheistic paganism, as outlined in Romans 1:29-31, except that the characteristics listed here in Paul's letter to Timothy seem to be developing within the framework of the professing church rather than the pagan world. In other words, there will be little distinction between the secular world and the religious world in the last days. Note, in particular, the cult of self-love, now being strongly promoted by secular psychologists and increasingly prominent even in counselling methods used in modern evangelical churches, as the answer to all psychological and social problems (ibid., note on II Timothy 3:2, "lovers of their own selves").

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21).

"Unthankful" (II Timothy 3:2).

The heathen people of ancient times were so unthankful to God that they plunged headlong into idolatrous humanism. Dr. Morris said that modern evangelical Christians are "in serious danger of starting down that same slippery slope." Of the ancient world, the Bible says,

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21).

Of the modern world, the Bible says,

"Unthankful" (II Timothy 3:2).

I think that's why Thanksgiving Day has been changed from a Christian holiday into a largely pagan holiday in America. Instead of being a time when we gather to thank God for His blessings, Thanksgiving has become "turkey day," a time to miss church, forget about God, and merely gobble down food, drink booze and watch football games. Shame on America! Shame on us for turning the beautiful Thanksgiving of the pilgrim fathers into a godless, pagan bacchanal of revelry and frolic! It is not "Turkey Day." It is supposed to be "Thanksgiving Day!"

"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21).

"Unthankful" (II Timothy 3:2). We must be warned by the Scriptures not to follow the godless, unthankful ways of vast multitudes in our nation today. The people of the ancient world were unthankful. The people of the last days are unthankful. That's what the Bible plainly says. America is rapidly becoming as godless as the world became in the days of Noah, before the Great Flood!

III. Third, true Christian people give thanks to God.

Please turn with me to I Corinthians 15:56-57. Let us stand and read these two verses aloud.

"The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:56-57).

You may be seated.

"The sting of sin is death." Death is like a terrible dragon that stings all people. There is no human hope that any of us can, by our own efforts, escape this terrible sting. It is the sting of sin. Sin brought death into the world. The thing that makes death most awful is sin. The thing that will make death most terrible to you is unpardoned sin. How horrible to awaken in Hell after you die!

"The strength of sin is the law."

Spurgeon, prince of preachers, said,

Before thou canst destroy sin thou must in some way satisfy the law [of God]. Sin cannot be removed by thy tears or by thy deeds, for the law is its strength, and until thou hast satisfied the vengeance of the law [the] sting cannot be taken away, for the very strength of sin is the law (C. H. Spurgeon, "Thoughts on the Last Battle," The New Park Street Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1981 reprint, volume I, p. 177).

You may not think that sin has any strength - but you are wrong. You have sin. No amount of obedience to God's law can remove that sin, or the sting of death that comes from it. The more you struggle to be free from sin, the more the law of God condemns you - and the more you are entrapped in the snares of sin.

But God offers you victory over sin and death. Yet this victory comes in only one way:

"Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57).

There is no way to escape the penalty of sin apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Thank God for the victory over sin that Christ gives those who come to Him by faith.

Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for thy sin. Jesus rose triumphant over sin and death. He ascended to Heaven with His precious Blood to intercede for the salvation of thy soul. Look up to Christ!

"Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1).

While others are thinking about a godless "turkey day," set thy mind upon Christ! Come to Him. Believe on Him. Be saved by Him.

"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2).

Then you will be able to say with the Apostle Paul,

"Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57).

And that's why I urge you to come back tonight for Thanksgiving dinner here at church. There's still time for you to sign up. Come home to church at 6 o'clock tonight and celebrate with thanksgiving the victory Christ gives to sinners who come to Him by faith! Why be lonely? Come home - to church! Why be lost? Come home - to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 1:18-23.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"I'd Rather Have Jesus" (words by Rhea F. Miller, 1922;
music composed by George Beverly Shea, 1909- ).


THE OUTLINE OF

A PAGANIZED THANKSGIVING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"Neither were thankful" (Romans 1:21).

    I.   First, the people of the ancient world were unthankful,
    Romans 1:21, 23.

    II.  Second, the people of the last days are unthankful,
    II Timothy 3:1-2, 5. 

    III. Third, true Christian people give thanks to God,
    I Corinthians 15:56-57; Colossians 3:1-2.