Be Thankful for Christ
Galatians 5:13-14

We gather this morning, during a month and a time of thanksgiving to say thank you to our First Responders. We want you to know how much we appreciate, honor, and respect your commitment to our community. Your willingness to place your lives on the line to protect us here at home does not go unnoticed. We are very blessed to have some first responders as a part of this church family, and we pray for them, their safety, and for you as you serve this community along side of them.

The passage that was read for us this morning at the beginning of our service is a reminder from the apostle Paul: God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom

We understand that you do put your life and the peace of your family on the line daily because you are forced to do so. You have made a choice to freely serve our community, this church, and the individual families in this church. During this time of the year, and with all of the crazy things that are happening in our world, we want to say thank you. We want to thank you for loving us as you love yourselves.

As I was thinking about today, and how to address our time together this morning I was reminded of a passage from the Old Testament. The Psalmist is speaking about a young king's responsibility to his people. It is one of those passages that so so multifaceted, it goes much deeper that what you see during your first reading, it speaks to a king, points to Jesus, and is a reminder of your deeper calling.

The text is from Psalm 72:12-14 For he will rescue the needy when they ask for help! He will save the burdened and come to the aid of those who have no other help. He offers compassion to the weak and the poor; he will help and protect the lives of the needy! He will liberate them from the fierce sting of persecution and violence; in his eyes, their blood is precious

I have a brother in law who is a first responder. Jason has served his community as a paramedic, a nurse in the ER, a search and rescue diver, and a flight medic. We joke that he allowed his love of adrenaline to chose his path in life. But the truth is that we understand there are many reasons people choose a career as a first responder.

I understand the draw to a profession where you get to do adrenaline rushing, heart pumping, action packed, 911 kind of stuff. I understand the draw to a work where people consider you to be a hero for your willingness to put your life on the line. But I also know if that is your only draw to this work, you won’t last very long.

Very soon in this work you realized something important. You realized your not just responding to that one call, but you’ve made a decision to respond to a bigger call. You’ve made a decision to respond to a calling in life. You have chosen to be the one who puts their life on the line to rescue the needy who are crying out for help.

When you look into the face and the eyes of a desperate person who is scared and cannot help themselves, you are coming to the aid of those who have no other help.

When you walk up on a house fire, a medical emergency, a car wreck, a freak accident, or answer the call that someone is in a house where they don’t belong you are offering compassion to the weak and protecting the lives of the needy.  

It is in those moments that you are not interested in the adrenaline the moment offers. In those moments you are sharing the heart of Jesus. You are interested in loving the people that are created and deeply loved by God. In those moments you step out of the comfortable and enter the chaos in an attempt to bring peace. When you answer a call, it is to assist people who are unable to help themselves! People who desperately need help, or who are in some kind of trouble.

This morning we want to celebrate the first line of help, those of you who put their lives on the line to help others. We are thankful that you care about your fellow man and are filled with love for your community. In those moments you carry the mantle of Jesus who was a first responder of sorts. Christ left the comforts of heaven and entered into the chaos of our lives. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Jesus Christ came to this world to be the Savior of people who are broken, hurting, desperate, discouraged, and sometimes trapped or pinned under the weight of life’s circumstances. The name Jesus actually means The Lord saves. In Luke 19:10 Jesus said that He came into the world for one reason, to seek and to save what was lost. Jesus came to be our Savior, He came to save us from our sins, and there are two ways that He does that.

First He forgives us of our sins.

Each and every one of us has sinned. We all have built up quite a list of offenses against God. If we were to stand before God and try to get to heaven on our own merits, we would never make it. We are all broken people and our lives are filled with sin. Some times we like to classify them as big sins or little sins, but either way we all have a pile of sins that we have collected in our lives.

Think of it this way. There are some people on the road that drive like maniacs, and really have no business being on the road. They drive when they’ve been drinking, they drive while texting, they drive while they are putting on lipstick, they drive while they are spanking their kids in the back seat, they drive while they are rifling through the glove compartment, they drive while they are reading a map, or a book. The list of what makes a bad driver is pretty extensive.

Then there are people who approach driving more like a responsibility. They don’t speed or let themselves get distracted while behind the wheel. They don’t panic when they see a police officer and immediately hit the brakes so the officer can’t catch them speeding. That’s because they’re basically good drivers.

If you fall into the second category, then I applaud you. But let’s imagine for a moment that the only way that you could renew your driver’s license was to have a perfect driving record, one that is completely spotless. I don’t mean that you have never been caught speeding or that you were never given a warning about using your turning signal when changing lanes. I mean that you have never done anything wrong.

When you went down to the department of motor vehicles they had this all knowing computer that could read your finger print and determine with absolute accuracy whether or not you have ever made an illegal u-turn, passed over double lines, or drove 46 in a 45. They knew if you ever rolled through a stop sign or drove under a traffic light that might not have been red, maybe it was just pink.
If that computer existed and those were the conditions, how confident are you that they would let you renew your driver’s license.  Would anyone here make it?

That’s the way that it is with sin in our lives. Even if you are a good driver, you are still not good enough to meet the standard of perfection; you’ll never make it on your own merits. Jesus came into the world to forgive our sins. He doesn’t cross through them or erase them; He gives us a clean slate to work with.

Isaiah 38:17 says that God cast all of our sins behind his back.

Micah 7:19 says that Jesus tramples our sins under His feet and throws them into the depths of the ocean.

And Isaiah 43:25 says that Jesus blots out our transgressions and remembers our sins no more.

Jesus came into the world to forgive us of our sins, and that should give us plenty of reason to be thankful, but that’s not the only way that Jesus responds to our need.   

Secondly He delivers us from our sins.

He came into the world to deliver us from our sins. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus he proclaimed “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). That’s what Jesus came to do. He not only wants to forgive you of your sins He wants to take it completely out of your life. He not only wipes your driving record clean, He teaches you how to drive.

Sin is a HUGE problem in our lives. It separates us from God and it wrecks our lives. Jesus is able to fix our problem. He forgives us of our sins and He delivers us from our sins. Imagine a person drowning in the middle of the ocean, and someone throws them a life preserver. He is no longer at risk of drowning, but he is still powerless over the ocean.  

If all Jesus did was forgive us of our sins, it would be like He threw us a life preserver to keep us from drowning, but never helped us get back to the shore. When Jesus came to save us from our sins, He came to do both. He forgives us of our sins and He empowers us to live a holy life, with victory over sin.

Every person in this room knows how it feels to be powerless over sin. There are some sins that you struggle with that make it very hard to find that way of escape. But God has promised us a way of escape through His grace. God has the power to help us overcome sin. 1 John 1:4 says "The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

Jesus came into the world to be our Savior, to save us from our sins. That means that He takes the penalty of sin away from us, He takes away the power of sin, and He takes away the presence of sin, we can be thankful for Jesus because He is our Savior.

One of the great things about Christianity is that we are the only religion that believes in a personal God. All other religions believe in a god that is out there somewhere. We have a Savior that desires to be known. He wants a personal relationship with us, to be in a relationship with us.  Jesus came into the world to be “God with us”. He came into the world so we would know that we are worth dying for. God is still with us because He makes His home in our hearts. And I am not talking in the symbolic sense. I mean it in the most literal way possible. Jesus moves in to live with us, He is always with you.    

We gather this morning to thank you for your service. We are thankful that you have taken on the mantle of Jesus Christ and give of yourself for our benefit. And we gather this morning to be thankful for Jesus for what He has done for us, and what He continues to do for us. He is the reason that we can be thankful today and every day.


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