Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday Night’s Sermon Outline
(I preached this message at a Community Thanksgiving Service.)

Introduction: In a letter to his daughter in 1784, Benjamin Franklin seemed to prefer the turkey over the eagle as a national bird for America. He said that the turkey is a courageous bird; however, he also admitted that the turkey is “a little vain and silly.” In our country there now seem to be two distinct groups. One group is distinctly Christian, but the second is not and seems to hold values that are far from being Christian values. The same situation existed in ancient Rome. Many historians think Christians played a major role in the fall of the Roman Empire. Christians spread their influence in Rome, and they even appeared in the household of Caesar (Philippians 4:22). Paul’s letter to the Romans was written sometime between 54 and 58 BC. Nero became emperor in 54 BC. His vanity and silliness influenced Rome in a bad way. The two groups in Rome are clearly contrasted in chapter one of Romans.

1. Paul thanked God through Jesus Christ, and he was ready to preach the gospel unashamedly in Rome (Romans 1:8, 15-16). We too, can be thankful “through Jesus Christ.” All truly good things come to us through Jesus. Paul was thankful for the faith of the Roman Christians. Their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world. We too can share the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God for salvation. We can demonstrate our thanksgiving to God by sharing the good news about His son.

2. The non-Christian group in Rome was not thankful to God; rather it was an idolatrous group of people (Romans 1: 21-25). The members of this group knew about God but did not really know God in terms of having a personal relationship with Him. They became futile in their thoughts—vain and silly, and their foolish hearts were darkened. They worshiped birds, four-footed animals, and creeping things. Do any people in America do such things? Yes, when Americans put tigers, bulldogs, razorbacks, panthers, etc. before God in priority, then they are guilty of such idolatry. Sports fans can become idolatrous if they elevate their teams above God. Some Americans put spotted owls, snail darters, etc. before God. Environmentalists can become idolatrous if they elevate the environment above God. Some Americans put Ford Mustangs before God. Car lovers can become idolatrous if they elevate cars above God. Idolatry occurs when people worship the creature rather than the Creator (verse 25). Idolatrous people cannot be truly thankful to God. Many Americans worship created people (self, celebrities, family, and friends) or created things rather than God. Such people need to be evangelized.

Conclusion: After the Pilgrims survived their first year, Governor William Bradford called for a celebration. We know that they ate venison and fowl at that time. Edward Winslow described his feelings at the celebration: “Although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” He had experienced famine in the new colony, but he was willing to share what he had received through the goodness of God.” As Christians who have previously known spiritual famine, we should be willing to share the gospel with those who are now spiritually hungry.