Peninsula Community Church
Worship from a Heart of Thankfulness
November 24, 2013
Colossians 3:12-17 – Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father.
As we navigate through life so often we can become distracted by the cares of life and we can become so self focused on our problems and our issues that we can literally forget that we have so much to be thankful for.
I am always amazed at the settlers who traversed great difficulty to settle in the west. The story is told of one of these wagon train parties. They were on the Oregon Trail and water and food had been scarce for several days. Some of the wagons were broken down, with consequent delays amid the stifling heat. A general feeling of fretfulness had succeeded the early optimism and cheer. So it was decided that, at the next night’s stop, a meeting would be held to air their troubles. When the settlers had gathered around the campfire, one of them arose and said, “Before we do anything else, I think we should first thank God that we have come this far with no loss of life, with no serious trouble with the Indians, and that we have enough strength left to finish our journey.” This was done, and then there was silence. No one had any complaints to make.
I want to take a moment to look at the reasons we can and for that matter should have a thankful heart. I want to do so in the context of living a transformed life where our heart has been impacted by the work of the cross.
The first reason we should be thankful is that we have been chosen by God. Notice in Paul’s opening statement who he is talking to. He is talking to those who have been chosen by God to be his people. This is not to solidify a doctrine of preselection or determination but that the fact that we have all been chosen by God to be His children. The sad fact is that while all mankind has the right and open door to come to Christ, not all do. Many are called but but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).
Now if we to stop at this point, we would have more than enough to be thankful for. We are chosen by God. You see one of the greatest needs of man today, according to psychologists, is the need to belong. By being chosen, He is saying to us that we belong. We have a place at His table and in His family. I don’t know how many of you have been in a family or a situation where you have felt rejected or have been denied access to the family. I have and I know that pain that comes from that but I also know the joy of being accepted by God the father when no one else would accept me.
The second reason we can be thankful is that in Christ we are considered to be holy. This is not something we have to strive for and that we have to make happen. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. When we accept Christ, we are already holy. Our holiness has been deposited in us at the point of salvation, but we must develop it and build on it. We are holy. This is an act of the heart. Holiness is an outflow of the work of righteousness in our hearts. It is the transformational work that God has done in and through us. We must understand that we are made holy by the work of the cross. This means all past sins and actions have been removed and cannot be held against us any longer.
Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
We are holy because He is holy, just as we are righteous as he is righteous. When we do not realize that we are already holy, the tendency is that we begin to strive for what we already possess and that can cause us to to be ungrateful. So much of our lives is based in trying to be good enough. We are trying to act right. We are trying to say the right thing. Now let me say that this is an important aspect of our lives and we need to guard our hearts but too often we are striving to accomplish what has already been done for us and through us.
The third reason we can be thankful is that we are loved. God loved us before we considered loving Him. Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How often do we fail to understand how the volume of love that God has for us? Too often we fail to love ourselves and to love others because we have a misunderstanding of God’s love of us.
We are loved by God. Wow! is that something to be grateful for. Can you imagine someone loving you unconditionally? A few weeks ago a couple of us went to the Chris Tomlin concert in Salisbury. During the concert we were privileged to hear Lou Giglio speak about the prodigal son (Luke 15). He reminded us that the father was ready to lavish great gifts and blessings on the son even though he had squandered his inheritance. This speaks to us that no matter what we do and no matter what act we commit, when we turn our hearts back to the father, he is there because His love extends beyond our sin and our failures. But when we compare the prodigal son with the oldest son who stayed home we are confronted with one who acted more out of jealousy than a recognition of what he already possessed. He already had everything he needed but he missed it. Who had the greatest heart of thanksgiving.
As we continue to read this portion of scripture, we find the evidence of a thankful heart. First, a thankful heart is one where Biblical peace is at work. We must understand that peace is not the absence of problems or difficulty. Peace is having the confidence that God will work every situation out for our good. Peace is knowing that you have made the right choices based on a correct understanding of God and His Word. When we have a right understanding of peace we are positioned to have a heart of thanksgiving.
Secondly, a thankful heart is one where Christ’s word is overflowing in our hearts. David stated that he hid the Word in his heart so that he would not sin against God. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalms 119:11). The Word of God keeps us from sin. The Word of God keeps us at peace because we know the end of the story. We also have the promises of God which we can hold onto. Having the Word of God in us positions us to be thankful.
And finally, a thankful heart is evidenced in Christ’s name being lifted up. When we lift up the name of Christ, it is hard to be ungrateful because we are overwhelmed with the great gifts that have been bestowed on us. This is not a casual confession. It is one based on the understanding of who God is and what he had done.