Three days ago across America, and to some degree around the world, millions of households sat down at a common table to “break bread” together and remember to be thankful. Depending on the family history and culture many different things could stimulate an attitude of thankfulness. Historically, we look back to 1621 when the pilgrims shared in a common meal with the Native Americans celebrating their first harvest. In 1789 our first President, George Washington, proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was not a national holiday until 1863 when President Lincoln called for a day set aside to give thanks to God for turning the tide of war in our country. Today, Thanksgiving Day is often called “Turkey Day”.
Paul certainly had better reasons for being always thankful.
Colossians 1:3-4 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints.”
Paul sent this letter to the Christian believers in Colossae from prison. So far as we know, Paul was not the missionary who founded the church. In fact, he may not have known anyone in the church personally. We do know that Paul was informed by one of their ministers named Epaphras. God willing, we will come back later to do a detailed series of messages based on Paul’s letter to Colossae. Right now our focus is on Paul’s faithfulness in prayer that stirred him to always thank God for the Colossian’s faith and love. Their faith and love were bearing fruit and increasing. However, the church in Colossae was experiencing division because of false teachers who claimed the Gentiles were not equal to the Jewish believers. After Paul’s first missionary journey the church at Jerusalem had settled these issues. Luke recorded the event in Acts chapter 15. So, Paul now needs to equip the Colossian believers for the battle with the Judaizers that lay ahead of them. He called on them to remember how they were taught, look at Colossians 2:6-7,
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Let’s look at what Paul had to say to the Colossian church, and to us. Since we have been raised with Christ we should set our minds on things above. We should put to death the earthly things that hold us back from spiritual growth. The Jewish false teachers were wrong. This was no longer a case of Jew versus Gentile since we are all one in Christ. We can now choose to live a life abounding in thanksgiving.
Colossians 3:12-13 tells us, Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 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.
It is true that God originally chose the nation of Israel to be his people. Now everyone who is in Christ is a “chosen one”! As such, we have the ability to put on a new lifestyle that reflects who we are. We are chosen to be holy and beloved therefore we can have compassionate hearts. The Judaizers would take them back to Moses rather than forward to Jesus. Since we are now sons and daughters of Abraham and Sarah “sin will have no dominion over you, since you’re not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Having been freed from the law we are able now to live out that freedom.
Our compassionate heart will allow us to display kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We are no longer enemies. The new believers become sons and daughters of Abraham and Sarah. We are now able to bear with one another.
That is an interesting phrase! Bear with one another! It certainly speaks of a great need for love and tolerance in the body of Christ. It’s easy to find something to complain about in another person. Yes, even among Christians! The cure for intolerance is forgiveness! What do we base our forgiveness of another person on? Think about who you were before you were saved — if you are saved! Our great need is salvation that involves the forgiveness of SIN and the sins it produces.
Christian believers are able to forgive any complaint we may have against another brother or sister in Christ. We are able to forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven us! After all, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32). Since our Heavenly Father paid such a high price so we can be forgiven should we not also forgive others? Anytime we have a hesitation about forgiving another we should pause to consider the great price he paid in forgiving us.
Now that we have dealt with forgiveness we can go on to the highest character trait — LOVE!
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 13 magnifies love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Remember? That chapter ends in verse 13! So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Jesus told his disciples one of whom passed it on to us: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
Therefore Paul could build on Jesus’ words telling the Colossians that putting on love like a garment is above all else. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14.
In a similar vein, Paul had written to the Ephesians. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2). Once again we see how great his love is for us! I remember my mother had a framed picture of the cross with the caption, “I asked Jesus how much do you love me?” “This much” he answered, then he stretched out his arms and died.” Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13). His friends! Our life should be filled with thanksgiving because of his great love for us.”
When we accept his love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony, we have new abilities. Paul continues, And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15). Please note that having put on love as a binder we now have the ability to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. Please don’t mistake what I say! We cannot cause ourselves to somehow be loving and peaceful but we can allow love and peace. Having been called into one body then we can be thankful.
What can we do to strengthen these qualities in our life? I look at the next verse: 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. (Colossians 3:16). Please note how the Bible answers our questions! Never hesitate to ask questions of the Bible Then read the contextual passages (before and after) many times the answer will be immediately obvious. Sometimes we will have to meditate on the passage until we have it burned into our memories and then when we need it, we will understand it. So how do we go about letting the word of Christ dwell in us? The word of Christ is the Bible. We need to know it in order to question it. In order to know the Bible we have to read it. Paul goes on to say that we are to teach each other and sing the word of God! The best hymns and spiritual songs are those that are based on the truth of the Bible. For some reason God has designed us so that we memorize better what we sing. Once we have buried the Bible in our memories we will be able to be thankful, not just on the surface, but deep in our hearts.
Paul concludes And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17).
“Whatever you do”. Not just in talk but in action! “Everything” means all things, small or large, in our lives. If you find yourself doing something that you cannot do “in the name of the Lord Jesus” give it up!
It may be a thought pattern that needs to be abandoned. It may be acting out those thoughts. Everything we do or say begins in our mind. Many times we act as though we must speak every thought. I’m here to tell you that’s not necessary. The easiest way to end wrong thinking is to stop it while it is still in our brain. Once it’s spoken or acted upon it can’t be taken back. So nail it down in the brain and leave it there till it dies!
Everything we do in the name of the Lord Jesus enables us to give thanks through him.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.