Series: Todah Living: The Transforming Power of Thanksgiving
The transforming power of thanksgiving is that it puts God at the center of everything. It is the difference between a God-centered or self-centered way of life. Said another way, praise trains you to look to the Son, rather than to the self.
The transforming power of thanksgiving carries us away from ourselves regarding what we have achieved or what we have failed to achieve. It turns us toward God's goodness, mercy, and love, which is abundantly embodied in the person of Jesus.
Thanksgiving has the power to transform because it is an act of repentance. It is a persistent turning from self to God, continually reminding yourself by declaring, praising, proclaiming, and confessing both who he is and what he has done. It puts God at the center of your existence.
Consistently giving thanks to God counters and overcomes this self-centered existence to which our hearts bend and culture reinforces.
If we focus on ourselves and our own efforts, typically one of two things will happen.
On the one hand, we become puffed up in pride regarding our abilities, accomplishments, and successes.
On the other hand, we become engulfed with an acute awareness of our failures, toiling under nebulous guilt that hangs over us like a cloud. We can be paralyzed by a sense of inadequacy and inability, bent down under the oppression of it all.
Can you relate? In both cases, we act out of self-centeredness—preoccupied either with our failures or successes, guilty of blocking God's grace. Both are sin, in need of confession, repentance, and forgiveness.
In thanksgiving, praise, and worship, we move the attention off of ourselves and onto God. It focuses on who he is, not on who I am. It focuses on what he has done, not on what I can or can't do. He is able, and we need to acknowledge that, persistently and consistently.
Thanksgiving and praise are fundamental to a mature overcoming life in Messiah Jesus; it is as simple as that. If you want to grow and mature, learn the power of thanksgiving and praise—get your mind off yourself, and get your mind onto the Father and the Son. Find ways to continually praise, celebrate, proclaim, and affirm their majesty.
I need to pause here and talk about a heinous sin that permeates and enervates the Christian world, especially in the West.
I am speaking of the sin of introspection. We are consumed with turning in and analyzing ourselves: our thoughts, our actions, our motives, our inabilities. You know what I mean, that nagging tendency to think about how we have failed, how we should have done this or should not have done that.
The sin of introspection is practicing the presence of self rather than the presence of God.
If introspection is left to run rampant, it can lead to mental instability. Mental hospitals are full of people who do nothing but introspect continuously. To be absorbed in oneself is a type of insanity. Yet you and I can practice a version of this which destroys spontaneous praise and worship.
Many people will go to the altar to confess and repent of sin, and God will touch them. But before they even get back to their seat, they have already destroyed that touch from God. Why? Because on the way back from the altar, they are introspecting on what just happened.
In her book, The Healing Presence, Leanne Payne tells the story of a professor who would illustrate this principle. He said to his students at the seminary, "Do you realize that you cannot kiss your girlfriend or boyfriend and think about the kiss at the same time. If you are in the act of kissing and you are thinking about the kiss, then you are missing out on the experience of kissing.
When we give in to unhealthy introspection, we do the same thing, and I see this continuously in faith communities. Christians are so hamstrung, laboring under guilt, condemnation, and a continuous sense of anxiety that they are robbed of spontaneity to be the person Jesus died to recreate. Why? Because they are too busy over-analyzing their every word and deed. Think about it. What we say about ourselves becomes more important than what God says about who we are in Jesus.
Biblical praise is a remedy for introspection.
Praise liberates us to the full expression and creativity that God has for us because it gets us up out of ourselves and onto him. Rather than leading into yourself like introspection, praise is just the opposite—it leads out of self. It empowers you to go out to the world, taking the kingdom with you. In other words, it leads to serving others.
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice. Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore his audio seminars.