When I first heard that Ann VosKamp’s One Thousand Gifts
was staying on the New York Time’s bestseller list, I thought:
A book on something as elementary as giving thanks?
But this book has helped so many believers recover the practice of thankfulness, including me. It is much deeper than just practicing gratitude.
When Ann studied the passage on The Ten Lepers, she was ready to skim, explaining:
I read the passage, one I remember from the musty basement of the Knox Presbyterian Church Sunday school. I think I know this one. Jesus restores ten lepers to wholeness. And only one returns to offer any thanks. I remember the moral too, Mrs. Morrison and her glossy red lipstick: “How often do you remember to say thanks?” Yes, I think I know this one. I skim.
Indeed, part of the lesson of The Ten Lepers is to be thankful.
But then Ann saw something she hadn’t seen before in the final verse, when only one of ten returned to thank Jesus, Jesus said,
Rise and go you way; your faith has made you well.
Wait, I trace back. Hadn’t Jesus already completely healed him?” Ann found the Greek word “sozo,” translated, means salvation. …the saving to the full, whole life. Jesus counts thanksgiving as integral in a faith that saves. We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks.
I want to discuss this with this amazing group. I remember receiving a letter from a woman in leadership who decided against studying Idol Lies because I quoted Ann, and she found her book heretical, believing Ann was preaching salvation through thanksgiving. I feel confident that Ann’s statement, “We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks” is evidence that Ann is talking about being saved more fully from the power rather than the penalty of sin.
This week you will hear Sinclair Ferguson preach on this passage. He too believes only the thankful leper was saved — which is fascinating — though he comes at the passage a bit differently.
We should have an interesting week.
We should ponder this question:
Though I realize this discussion could go wrong, I don’t think it will. I feel this group is a gift from God, and that we truly can be iron sharpening iron to one another.
If we pray, He can give us one mind in Him.
Last week you were at your best — giving links, thoughts, hymns, and listening to one another. If you missed Nila’s link to Eugene Peterson’s funeral, go back and get it. And I loved Renee’s chart of familiar hymns based on psalms. I am always looking for friends of depth, and it is such a gift to have you, right here. How I thank God for you. So let’s tackle together what God is teaching us through the Ten Lepers. There’s only one right answer, and that is what God intended, so let’s see if we can find it together.
And we will examine this question prayerfully:
Does the giving of thanks actually save us?
1. What stands out to you from the above, and why?
2. Last week many of you learned a hymn or praise song by heart. Was there anything in that music that helped you thank Him for who He is?
3. For what are you thankful on this Sabbath day?
Monday: Preparing for Luke’s Passage on The Ten Lepers
Luke shows how Gentiles can come into the Kingdom, and Darrell Bock says Luke is particularly significant in showing how those on the outside can come in: women, the poor, the Gentiles. There are more “women’s stories” in Luke than in any other gospel, as well as many stories of “ragamuffins,” Brennan Manning’s term, becoming whole.
The following is from John Macdonald, a pastor with Canada Outreach Ministries:
THREE THINGS ABOUT LEPROSY
First, in the Bible, leprosy is broader than what is now called Hansen’s Disease. It describes a host of skin disorders, and is often translated as “infectious skin disease.”
Third, the only incidents of ‘leprosy’ being cured involved the direct intervention of God. Two examples in the OT are the healing of Miriam, the sister of Moses, (Numbers 12:9-15) and Naaman, the Syrian general (2 Kings 5:1-14). In the NT Jesus heals several lepers (Mark 1:1:40-45; Luke 17:11-19).
I (Dee) can see how leprosy is a good picture of us before Christ touches us: unclean, separated, and “the living dead.” Only a miracle can save us.
4. Before Christ, how were you “unclean, separated, and the living dead?” Be specific if you can and then give thanks for His mercy and grace.
5. In what ways have you become clean, brought into the circle, and made alive? Be specific if you can and then give thanks for that power.
Tuesday: What Does the Passage Say? Fact Gathering.
I have loved this song for a long time and find it interesting it was written by Catholic nuns who work with the least of these. What I love in this particular rendition is the picture of the man leaping because of a miracle. Watch it and share your thoughts.
6. Comments on the above?
7. Do you have a memory of when you were saved from the penalty of sin? If so, share, and give thanks.
8. Read Luke 17:11-19
A. Describe the scene in verses 11-13.
B. What did they call Jesus and what was their request?
C. What does Jesus tell them to do in verse 14? And how does this require faith?
D. What happened to them as they journeyed?
E. Describe the one who returned in verses 15-16.
F. What question does Jesus ask in verse 17-18?
G. What does Jesus tell him in verse 19?
Wednesday: How To Avoid Mis-interpreting Scripture
Recently I counseled a young woman who is distressed because her parents, who once seemed so grounded in Scripture, have been swept up into false teaching. She asked, “They are so sure that this new teaching is the truth and that they were wrong before. How can we know for sure what’s true and what is not?”
This is such an important question, and one of the main reasons I wanted to write this book.
I told her: “We need to take Paul’s warning to Timothy to heart, about ‘rightly handling the Word of truth’ [2 Timothy 2:15]. The word handling in the Greek is orthotomeo, an engineering term that refers to keeping things straight, aligned—small pieces must fit into the unified whole. God doesn’t disagree with Himself. Any doctrine you embrace must fit into the unified themes of the Bible. The reason, for example, that we don’t believe that something must be added to our faith to save us, as your parents now do, is that the whole theme of the Bible is that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to make the vilest sinner clean. The reason we don’t believe that Jesus is just a great teacher—as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Scientists do—is that the whole theme of the Bible is that He is very God of very God.”
I went on to explain that when a verse doesn’t seem to fit into the unified whole, it is only an apparent contradiction. Either God will make it clear when we see Him face to face, or light will be given to you as you hold it up the unified themes of the Bible.
For example, in Galatians 5:19–21, Paul gives a list of sins and closes with “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This, out of context, could lead some to think that if they don’t do such things, they will automatically go to heaven. But this interpretation cannot be correct because the unified theme of the whole Bible and of Galatians itself says we are saved only by faith in Christ, not by our actions or inactions.
9. With this in mind, do you think the act of giving thanks can save us from the penalty of sin? Why or why not? Support your answer scripturally.
10. Do you think the act of giving thanks can be an evidence of salvation? If so, can you give an illustration from life or scriptural support?
The Lord has given me a new friend at pickleball this year — whom I will call Martha. She came to our Christmas Tea last year and was intrigued. This year I invited her to Bible study. She asked me how much homework there was because she was busy. Wanting her so to come, I minimized it, saying: “I think you could do it in 15 minutes a day.” (I so wanted her just to come!)
Then Twila leaned forward and said, more accurately, “You will get as much out of it as you put into it.”
Martha started coming, and it soon became clear God was wooing her. She had many questions and was really digging into her homework, even when she couldn’t make the meetings due to traveling to help a daughter. Now she has such a heart of thanksgiving. We went out to lunch and she wept. We laughed at her initial response of “How much homework will I have to do?” I will never ever get over the power of God is taking a person who does not seem to have life into one vibrant with life. And indeed, the evidence to me of her salvation is her great thankfulness. She is like the man leaping in the song above. She has been seized by the power of a great affection!
But having said that, though I do not think (nor do I think Ann VosKamp thinks) that giving thanks can save us from the penalty of sin, it does indeed seem to rescue us from grumbling, from discontentment, from negativity — all evidences of the chains of sin. I do think thankfulness can rescue a child of God from the power of sin, but I’m open to being shown otherwise!
11. Read Philippians 4:6-7
A. What command and what promise are given here?
B. Do you think that this passage promises a release from the chains of worry through faith and thanksgiving? Why or why not?
C. What are your worried about right now you could turn over to the Lord with prayer and thanksgiving?
12. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:18
A. What command is given here?
B. What is the difference between giving thanks for circumstances and in circumstances?
C. Do you think that obeying this command could release a power to overcome despair? Why or
Thursday-Friday: Sermon by Sinclair Ferguson on The Ten Lepers (Sermon link now fixed – sorry!)
13. Listen to the following and then share your notes and comments.
14. How would you answer the question: “Does giving thanks save us?”
15. What do you think is God’s intended teaching from the story of the ten lepers?
16. What is your take-a-way and why?