Series: Seasonal Attitudes To Have All Year Long
This Thanksgiving and Christmas season we are looking at several attitudes that Christians should have, and have all year long. That’s why I’m coming this series: “Seasonal Attitudes To Have All Year Long.” The attitudes that we’re looking at are ones that we need to remember especially during the holidays. We looked at contentment last time, which is going to be extremely important for some people on Black Friday!
This time we’re going to pick up the attitude of being thankful, especially as it has to do with living out the Christian life. In Colossians 3:12-17, the apostle Paul describes the life of the new man that every Christian is supposed to put on.
12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:12–17)
We want to look at the latter half of this passage, verses 15-17, which commands, in three different ways, for us to let Jesus have his way in our lives. Along with these commands, we are also given the attitude in which we are to perform them—an attitude of thankfulness.
THANKFULLY LET GOD’S PEACE RULE YOU
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts,
to the which [peace] also ye are called in one body;
and be ye thankful.
The “peace ( εἰρήνη, NNSF, εἰρήνη) of God” is what we receive when we trust Christ Jesus. Before we are saved, the Bible says that we are enemies of God (Romans 5:10). Our sins offend him. The penalty for our sins is eternal punishment in Hell (Romans 6:23). The first step in salvation is recognizing that fact. But God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for our sins—to pay the penalty. If we trust in Christ, we will have peace with God (Romans 5:1).
The “peace of God” is an assurance that our sins are really forgiven. It’s an assurance that our trials are being worked out for our good (Romans 8:28). It’s an assurance that we will never be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39). It’s a peace that we as Christians are “called in one body” to share.
We are to “let the peace of God rule in [our] hearts.” The “heart”, in the Bible, has to do with the decision-making part of us. Your entire life, the choices you make, the words you say, everything—ultimately comes out of your heart. That’s why the Bible says—“Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is your control center, your cockpit panel, so guard it carefully.
The word “rule” (βραβευέτω, VPAM3S, βραβεύω, to factor decisively) refers to someone being in control of another person’s activity by making a decision. For example, when a judge makes a ruling that sends someone to jail, he made a decision that controlled another person’s activity. An umpire in a game does much the same thing—he yells, “safe” or “out,” and those decisions control the flow of the game. We are to let the “peace of God” decide as umpire in our lives.
An old story which comes from the Salvation Army in the last century tells of a strong-willed woman who had been nicknamed “Warrior Brown” because of her fiery temper. She was often belligerent and became enraged whenever she got drunk. Then one day she was converted. Her entire life was wonderfully changed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
At an open-air meeting a week later, she told everyone what Jesus had done for her. Suddenly a scoffer threw a potato at her, causing a stinging bruise. Had she not been converted, she would have lashed out at the man furiously. God’s grace, however, had made such a profound change in her conduct that she quietly picked up the potato and put it into her pocket without saying a word.
No more was heard of the incident until the time of the “harvest festival” months later. Then the dear lady who had been known as “Warrior Brown” brought as her offering a little sack of potatoes. She explained that after the open-air meeting she had cut up and planted the “insulting potato,” and what she was now presenting to the Lord was “the increase.” Warrior Brown had allowed “the peace of Christ” to be umpire of her life. (R. Kent Hughes, Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ, Preaching the Word [Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989], 110–111)
Then let the peace of God rule in your thinking—your decision-making—by remembering that God’s got this trial in the palm of his hand and it’s going to benefit you if you let it. Let Jesus have his way in your life.
What does the “peace of God” ruling in your heart have to do with being “thankful” (εὐχάριστοι, JNPM, εὐχάριστος, grateful)? The answer is: to maintain God’s peace in your heart, you must be thankful. Believers need to live in a state of gratitude. Just consider the words for the anxious person in Philippians 4—
6 Be careful for nothing [don’t be anxious]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)
Why did thanksgiving get thrown in there? It would have been fine without it, right? Don’t be anxious, but pray and let your requests be made known to God. Sounds good, doesn’t it? No, thankfulness and the peace of God are tied together. When we are thankful, the peace of God can rule our hearts. You will be thankfully letting Jesus have his way In your life.
Another command here is that you are to…
THANKFULLY LET CHRIST’S WORD DWELL IN YOU
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;
teaching and admonishing one another
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace [thankfulness] in your hearts to the Lord.
Next we are “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly in all wisdom.” This is another way of saying “let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” We are to let the “word of Christ” determine our decisions and actions.
How do we get the “word of Christ” to dwell richly in us? Obviously, it’s going to be by reading the Bible—studying it, memorizing it, and letting it determine our actions.
Can you honestly say that your ideas and opinions about things—politics or parenting, work ethics or business practices, everything in life—are based on the Bible? And I don’t mean an isolated verse you found, but the whole context, the whole theme of the Bible. Can you point to places in the Bible to defend your opinions and convictions (without taking the verses out of context)?
I challenge you to make the Bible your go-to source of authority. I challenge you to get more information from it than you do the television or Google. When you express an opinion about something, if Jesus was standing next to you, would he say, “I agree”? If you don’t know what he would say, then you need to read more Bible every day.
We are to let the “word of Christ dwell…richly” by “teaching and admonishing one another.” In other words, the church is to a place of teaching and encouragement, not just from the pulpit, but among “one another.” As iron sharpens iron, so we need to sharpen one another. Get involved in Bible studies to help the word of Christ go deep in your heart.
Paul then brings up singing as a good way of getting the “word of Christ” to dwell in believers—“in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” What’s the difference between these? The word “psalms” is obvious, it refers to the Old Testament psalms. At one time, the Church of Christ sang the Psalms. A famous song book in the 1600’s and 1700’s was the Bay Psalm Book. This practice has died out, which is sad, because it helped believers to memorize the psalms, one of the best places to go for comfort and to learn how to pray.
It’s a bit difficult to distinguish between “hymns and spiritual songs.” Don’t try to draw comparisons between what Paul called hymns and what we call hymns today. And, no, it isn’t that hymns are longer and spiritual songs are shorter.
Pretty much the idea behind both “hymns and spiritual songs” is that they teach something about God or Jesus Christ. A lot of our hymns and songs, both old and new, have very little in them about God—they’re mainly about us. Look at an example of a biblical hymn or song. Many Bible scholars believe that Colossians 1:15-20 was an early hymn of the church.
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15–20)
Obviously, if singing is going to help us have the word of Christ dwell richly in us, then the songs we sing need to teach us about Christ.
Our singing (which is helping us to have the word of Christ dwell richly in us) must be done thankfully. Where do I get that? Look at verse 17—we are to be “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
That word, “grace” (χάριτι, NDSF, χάρις, thanks) has the idea of gratitude or thankfulness in this verse. By the way, the Greek words for grace, gift, joy, and gratitude are all the same root word—you can see how they’re all related. Grace is an undeserved gift that we receive with joy and gratitude.
At any rate, our singing must be “with grace in [our] hearts to the Lord.” In other words, it should be done with joy and gratitude. And when it is, then the “word of Christ” will have fertile soil in which to dwell richly.
Think about it this way—and this isn’t a perfect illustration, but don’t miss the point: if you had a family member have to move in with you, to dwell with you. Maybe it’s an older parent, or maybe your adult child lost his job. If you weren’t thankful for them, what would them dwelling with you be like? Would it be rich?
The same is true for God’s word. If we aren’t thankful for Christ, then we won’t think too much about his word dwelling in us. We won’t care. If you are having a problem reading the Bible, or even with singing songs that teach Christ’s word—ask yourself, “Am I truly thankful for who Christ is and what he did for me?”
When you are thankful, you will let Christ’s word dwell richly in you. You will be thankfully letting Jesus have his way In your life.
A third command in these verses is that you are to…
THANKFULLY LIVE YOUR LIFE IN JESUS’ NAME
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
It’s pretty clear that anything and everything the Christian does is supposed to be done in the name of Jesus. How do you do everything “in the name of the Lord Jesus”? What does that mean?
It doesn’t mean that somehow you are supposed to make everything you do somehow Christian. I knew some folks who, when they built their home, wrote a Bible verse reference on almost every stud. Nothing wrong with doing that, of course, kind of neat, in fact. But it’s not the type of thing that Paul is talking about here. Others might think that if our city council meetings or Senate meetings start with prayer, that somehow counts for something. That’s not what Paul is talking about here either. Doing everything “in the name of the Lord Jesus” is not a quick prayer that you can tack onto everything you do in life so you can call it Christian.
What is doing everything “in the name of the Lord Jesus”? It’s essentially the same thing we’ve been seeing in the other verses here. It’s letting “the peace of God rule in your hearts” so that Jesus is the umpire calling the shots in your life. It’s letting “word of Christ dwell in you richly” so that the Bible determines your opinions and the way you think.
A key part of doing everything in “the name of the Lord Jesus” is that, as we do, we’ll be “giving thanks” (εὐχαριστοῦντες, VPAP-PNM, εὐχαριστέω, χαιρω) “to God and the Father by him.” In other words, we’ll live our lives for Jesus with a thankful attitude. Are you able to give thanks to the Father for the things that you do and the words that you say?
- That unforgiving spirit you have for a friend or a spouse—can you give thanks to God for it?
- That angry thought you had or word that you spoke—can you give thanks to God for it?
- That test you cheated on—can you give thanks to God for it?
You get the idea. The key to doing everything in the name of Jesus Christ is being able to have a thankful attitude to God the Father for it. So this will mean that we don’t do some things that we couldn’t give thanks for, and it also means that we will do other things that we can be thankful for. Things like kind words and actions, or sharing the gospel, and so on.
When you are thankful, you will live your life in Jesus’ name. You will be thankfully letting Jesus have his way In your life.
Do you know what a catalyst is? In chemistry, a catalyst is a substance that causes or speeds up a chemical reaction. You could say that a catalyst is a helper. Thankfulness is like a catalyst for our spiritual growth, for helping us let Jesus have his way in our lives.
[Object Lesson: Elephant Toothpaste demonstration. You need 6% Hydrogen Peroxide (hair developer, found at beauty shops), dish soap, and yeast dissolved in water. Put the Hydrogen Peroxide in a bottle (1/3 full), add some dish soap. This represents our letting the peace of God rule in our hearts; our letting the word of Christ dwell in us; our doing everything in the name of Jesus. Dissolve the yeast in just enough water to do so. This represents our thankfulness. Pour it in the bottle and watch what happens.]
Thankfulness is a key part of letting Jesus have his way with your life. If you are thankful, his peace comes naturally to you, it’s a joy to have his word dwell in you, and it will be easier for you to live your life in Jesus’ name.
Being thankful doesn’t come easily for us, so you will have to be intentional about adding it to your spiritual lives. Write out blessings that God brings to your life. Think about how you can be thankful for every trial that comes your way.
I was talking to a man whose father died recently. As a matter of fact, the father died while visiting the man from quite a distance. I said, “That must have been a bummer to lose him when he came out to visit and hunt with you.” “No,” said the man, “it was a blessing. We got to be with him when he died…to hear his last words.” Thankfulness changed that man’s perspective of the trial of losing his father. Thankfulness can change everything about your spiritual growth in Jesus Christ.