Gratitude: Joel Osteen and Heidelberg Catechism
Choose today to let the peace of Christ rule in your heart and have an attitude of gratitude toward the Lord. Even if you have things that are upsetting you, take a step of faith and begin to thank God for His goodness in your life. ~ Quote from a famous person.
Do you know who said that?
I just quoted Joel Osteen.
No, I have not lost my mind. Pease allow me to ‘splain.
What was at the heart of the fall of man in the garden?
We could say pride.
We could say covetousness or discontent.
I believe the Bible teaches that ingratitude was at the heart of the fall. Man was not grateful for the blessings he had been given, for the authority granted to him by the Lord, for the communion and love he experienced with God – he wanted more, he coveted more, and this reveals an attitude of ingratitude. I believe that ingratitude is also at the heart of our fallenness today. It is this ingratitude which is spoken of by the Apostle Paul in Romans, where he says,
“Although they knew God, they did not honour him as God, nor give thanks to him”.
Something that I noticed through my recent bout with depression is that even unbelievers say we should have an attitude of gratitude. Which is strange, if you think about it.
Who do they give thanks to?
It seems strange to simply be grateful for everything and have that gratitude be directed at nothing.
Gratitude is taught in recovery groups, and it is in many of the new pop-psychology and self help books. Unbelieving counsellours teach their clients to have an attitude of gratitude. It seems to be all the rage in pop psychology right now. Google gratitude and you get all sorts of quotes. But this gratitude fad is not just some new age, postmodern, self help thing. Gratitude is fundamentally a Christian thing. A Biblical thing. The Heidelberg Catechism, an old but invaluable document from the time of the reformation, teaches the gospel and is divided into three parts. The first part speaks to our sinful condition. The second part speaks about our redemption through Jesus. And the third part is about our thankfulness, or our gratitude. In a tiny nutshell the gospel is about how bad we were, how much God loved us through Jesus, and how we get to be thankful for his love.
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians,
“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Today, in evangelical circles there are people, like Osteen, who are famous for their positive messages that are peppered with having an attitude of gratitude. As a Reformed believer, I tend to get my back up when these teachers come on. As I think most believers in the Reformed camp do. Because we zealously defend what is taught in the first part of the old catechism… the doctrine of the reality of our sin, and the doctrine of total depravity. We’re living in a culture that denies the reality of sin and says that we are basically good, so we push back against it. And rightly so. But I fear that sometimes we drive so close to the shoulder of the road for fear of being hit by the errors coming from the other direction, that we can, from time to time, drive off into the ditch. What I mean is, that we can lose sight of the blessings of God. We can forget that God actually does love us. We can forget that we get to be joyful people. We can forget that we are called to rejoice in all things and that we get to be thankful in all things. We can forget that we are called to have an attitude of gratitude to the Lord.
At least I can.
But I am learning, thankfully.
The catechism teaches that prayer is the most important part of our thankfulness. It also teaches that “God will give his grace and the Holy Spirit only to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask him for these gifts and thank him for them.” In 1 Thessalonians Paul tell us that God’s will for us is to be joyful, thankful, and to pray always. In Romans 12 Paul repeats himself when he says,
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
We can see that Bible constantly links prayer and gratitude. We do well to consider our prayer life. Do we make time to pray? Do we delight in prayer? As forgiven children of the most high God, we have an opportunity everyday to come before the Lord in humbleness, joyfulness, and gratitude. Are we making the most of this opportunity to meet with our Father? Do our prayers reveal an attitude of joyful gratitude for his grace and blessing in our lives? Or are we stuck in the “I am a wretched sinner” part of the catechism, rarely casting our gaze upon the beauty of the atonement wrought for us in the cross and rejoicing in thankfulness?
To clarify about Osteen, I am not suggesting that we all start listening to him, far from it. That quote above? It is out of context. He goes on to talk about how this attitude will help you to be blessed with prosperity in this life, which is un-biblical. In stark contrast to Osteen’s theology, we desperately need to know that we are sinners. But we don’t stop there. We don’t get hung up on our sin. We don’t wallow in it. Once we realize our sinfulness, we stop looking at ourselves and we get to instead look to Christ. Once we have taken our gaze from ourselves and our sin and put it on Jesus Christ, we can take the opportunity to be grateful to the Lord for His goodness in our life. We can choose today to be grateful for these blessings. Look at the cross. Look at your salvation. You are blessed.
Let’s be grateful to the Lord.