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Our Protestant forefathers understood the importance of gratitude in the Christian life. The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), one of the great catechisms of the sixteenth century, is divided along three lines. Questions 1–11 articulate “the misery of man,” questions 12–85 outline “man’s deliverance,” and questions 86–129 emphasize “thankfulness.” This threefold division is commonly summarized as “Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude.” Question 86 asks, “Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merits of ours, why must we still do good works?” The answer:

Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by His blood also renews us by His Holy Spirit after His own image; that we may, testify by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for His blessings, and that He may be praised by us.

With this question and answer in view, let us take a closer look at gratitude, laying out four aspects and applying them to the catechism’s answer.

First, gratitude is initiated by an act of kindness, and the act of kindness that initiates Christian gratitude is God’s gracious blessings in the person and work of Christ.

Second, receiving God’s grace in Christ breeds thanksgiving in the heart of the recipient. This is reflected throughout the Psalms, and especially in Psalm 103:1–4:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.

Third, thankfulness engenders appreciation, which means to highly esteem the act of kindness. Psalm 63:3–4 says:

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands.

Fourth, appreciation prompts action on the part of the recipient of the act of kindness to show how he values and esteems the act of kindness toward him. This is the point of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:2: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

In short, Christian gratitude is grounded in the knowledge of God’s grace toward us in Christ, and that knowledge manifests itself in high esteem and awe of that grace, which propels us to serve and please Him.

Measuring the Temple

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From the November 2020 Issue
Nov 2020 Issue