Thanksgiving and Repentance

In a proclamation on April 30, 1863, for a nationwide Day of Fasting and Prayer, President Abraham Lincoln said, “It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

Mr. Lincoln went on to say, “We have been the recipients of the choicest blessings of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown, but we have forgotten God.”

America was richly blessed because of the patriarch Abraham’s faith and obedience. But President Lincoln recognized that America had forgotten God and needed to repent. What would he think of America today? Have we forgotten God? Does America need to repent?

How about you individually? Do you need to repent? What is repentance and how is it accomplished?

Romans 5:12 tells us that “all have sinned.” Jesus Christ is the only human to have lived a sinless life. That was necessary for Him to be the savior of mankind. But all other humans have sinned and do need to repent.

Christ teaches us in Mark 1:15 that we need to repent and believe the gospel. The gospel that Christ taught is the good news of the soon-coming Kingdom of God. Repentance is a requirement of being forgiven of sin. Without repentance, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:7-8).

Sin is what has to be repented of. Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Abraham Lincoln realized that the war-torn America of his time was sinning and needed to repent of breaking God’s law.

Repentance simply means to change direction from sinning to living according to God’s laws. That requires action! John the Baptist told the religious leaders of his day, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:8).

Repenting of sin doesn’t mean merely feeling bad about sin. Repentance means a person stops sinning and starts doing the will of God (Matthew 7:21). President Lincoln knew that if America was to survive and be blessed, the people had to change their ways. They had to begin to bring forth fruits of repentance.

A major fruit of repentance for America was that it abolished slavery. It wasn’t done perfectly, but America changed its ways. The nation didn’t just feel bad about slavery, it abolished slavery. That is rare in history! It is something to be thankful for!

God wants us to repent so He can pour out His blessings on us. Christ makes an awesome promise to us in Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

If we repent and put God’s will first in our lives, Christ promises that all the blessings we could ever want will be added unto us. If the people of America—and all people—would truly repent and seek to do God’s will, God would free this world from its slavery to sin.

Lincoln’s official proclamation in October 1864 created the national day of Thanksgiving:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust, and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union and harmony throughout the land, which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Signed, Abraham Lincoln.

This Thanksgiving, be sure to thank God for all His blessings and seek to do His will. Even if most people don’t repent today, you certainly can. And if you do begin to live by God’s laws and stay in a humble attitude of repentance, seeking to do God’s will, then “all these things shall be added unto you.”

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