The Cheerfulness of a Grateful Heart
Colossians 3:15–17 – Colossians: Made Alive in Christ
11th Sunday after Pentecost – August 5, 2018 (am)
We apologize that due to technical issues, we do not have this audio recording. Sermon notes are below.
Our summer study in Colossians has the theme Made Alive in Christ, taken from Col 2:13; “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…” this verse brings out an important aspect of what God actually does for us; that is, Jesus did not come to make bad people good, Jesus came to make dead people alive. All of us, having been born into the family of man as sinners, we must be made alive, born-again, born from above, born of God – we must receive spiritual life from Him.
In this letter, Paul has prayed for these born-again believers 1:9,10; “asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom & understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Then Paul instructs them as to the greatness of the Person of Jesus Christ; 1:19,20; “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him (Jesus Christ) to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” And then in chap 2, Paul goes on to condemn the false religious pursuits of legalism, asceticism, worship of angels, and any type of a strict self-made religion – because all these false pursuits have no value in knowing God and living for Him; 2:23. Well, what does have value?
What has value is what follows 3:1ff for God’s people, Paul teaches that you have been raised with Christ to God’s right hand, so seek the things above where Christ is, be putting to death what is earthly, be putting on all that applies to your new self, which is created after the image its Creator; and all of that comes to you because you have been made alive, born from above – where “Christ is all and in all.” 3:11.
Our focus this morning is on another one of those valuable things, another key aspect of seeking the things above where Christ is being thankful. We’ll be asking: What is thankfulness? What are you thankful for? How can you cultivate a thankful heart? What enables you to give thanks? And then finally asking how does your thankfulness impact the gospel? [The fact that thanksgiving is to be a prominent part of the Christian life is taught throughout this epistle, mentioned in every chapter (1:3,12 & 2:7 & 3:15,16,17 & 4:2); and 3 times in these 3 verses.]
Let’s begin by asking; what is thankfulness? Thankfulness; acknowledging that someone has freely given a gift to you, or done some favor for you; solely from the love that this person has for you – and you appreciate them; you appreciate the person that they are, and you appreciate the care & the gift that you have received from them– and so you express your thanks to them. You are sincerely acknowledging the value of the gift given to you, but even moreso you’re appreciating the value of the person that gave you the gift.
Fred Sanders, in his book The Deep Things of God says; “When something is gratuitous (from grace) and given to us freely, the appropriate response is gratitude or gratefulness. Grace calls forth gratitude, and we answer with “thank you.”
Now, before we examine our passage, let’s look at an excellent example of someone giving thanks for what he has been received from God -> Luke 17:11-19. This Samaritan leper recognized that Jesus had healed him by His mercy, he turned back to go to Jesus, praising God with a loud voice… and fell at the feet of Jesus, giving Him thanks. THIS is the kind of thanksgiving that we’re shooting for this morning. That you would recognize the value of all the gracious gifts that you have received from God, who is the premier gift-giving Person, that you would have a sincere appreciation for the value of the gifts that He has given to you. This leper is completely healed, he’s been rescued, delivered, and he’s no longer an outcast from his family or society, and he has been restored to full health!! And his response is praise & thanks. Tremendous example for us.
In our passage for today, we will see this aspect of thanksgiving being expressed in three ways, as “be thankful... singing with thankfulness… and giving thanks to God the Father.” – each of these 3 opportunities to give thanks is motivated by a different reason, and each of those three reasons for thanksgiving is a gracious gift from God (2x). The outline for today;
I. The Umpire
II. The Governor
III. The Ambassador
The Umpire 3:15
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” Here rule means to arbitrate, to act as umpire by weighing the evidence and then make a ruling.
A. Peace of Christ = peace between the individual members of the body; peace within our family life, our church life – peace within community of people. Not you being at peace within yourself.
B. Arbitration; this peace of Christ is to be the arbiter, the judge, the mediator, in each & every difficult interaction that you experience with others. Now, let’s just admit that the people in this sanctuary today, or living under your roof, or working next to you at your place of employment, or living in your neighborhood, or occupying first place at a red light, whatever - those people can & will mistreat you – not necessarily on purpose, but simply because you’re in a world full of sinners, some of whom are saved by grace, but even they are all still living in an unredeemed body which is indwelt by sin, correct? (Rom 7). The people around you here today can & will offend you, ignore you, annoy you, compete unjustly against you, neglect you, take you for granted, sin against you, avoid you, or harm you – or harm someone you love. And when that happens, how will you respond?
C. You actually could respond with those sins listed in v8 – and that’s not gonna be pretty, in fact that’s only gonna generate conflict & drama, as you indulge your own selfish flesh. Or as you consider your options, you could let the peace of Christ be the Arbiter, to conduct that arbitration between you and that other person. And you could respond with those godly traits & practices listed in vv12,13 – a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with another [bearing with = carrying the heavy load of their weirdness, or their weakness, or even their sin]; and if you have a complaint against anyone – FORGIVE! In fact, you must forgive, releasing them from the debt they owe you.
D. Examples – Joseph and his brothers in Gen 50:20 (PEACE); David vs King Saul in 1Sam 23:14-19, “Then Saul went home” (PEACE), and Jesus with the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11 – “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” In all these instances, bloodshed and death were averted; conflict, anger, wrath, malice – all of these were averted; and a peaceful resolution was reached. Why? All because the peace of Christ was the umpire, making the call, which rendered a decision in favor of PEACE.
E. Now - why should the peace of Christ be the umpire, the judge of how you respond to being mistreated? Because you have been called into one unified body, the church. We’re no longer all those potential factions listed in v11; but instead Christ is all and in all. The peace of Christ is to rule in your heart in order to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).
F. Next sentence; “Be thankful” - I think Paul is indicating that you’re to be thankful that your old self isn’t making the call, generating all that conflict, fights, arguing, drama – but instead the peace of Christ practiced in love establishes perfect harmony between people. Being at peace with others, and not in conflict, is something we should be very thankful for; and those examples of Joseph, David and Jesus point us to how God calls His people to live with one another.
G. Also, being thankful is an area of life that you should be developing & cultivating. And right here, I’m reminded of 2Tim 3:16,17; “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Notice that Paul says you’re to use God’s word for “training in righteousness” – meaning that you need to be aware of what righteous living looks like, and you should have a plan to be trained in righteous Christian living, you should be involved in some kind of spiritual training program of discipleship so that you’re exercising your spiritual muscles into developing thankfulness as an integral part of your life.
I came across an article on “Discipling Women Toward Thanksgiving” written by Mary Mohler, the wife of Al Mohler, who’s the president of Southern Seminary; here’s what she says, “Biblical gratitude is a focused gratitude that transforms how we view God and His world, spilling over in how we appreciate others. Gratitude has been called a ‘parent virtue’ for a reason. When we train ourselves to look for ways to be grateful each day, we see other virtues mature as well… we can become more patient and joyful as we become more grateful.”
Notice, “we train ourselves to look for ways to be grateful” – that’s what Paul is teaching; you are to “be thankful” (1) because of the peace & harmony we receive from the peace of Christ, and (2) recognize that thankfulness is an aspect of the Christian life where we require training.
H. APPLICATION: Commit in your heart now to have the peace of Christ as your umpire to determine how you will respond to hard times – because you will be mistreated. Don’t just wait for that moment to happen, and don’t wait to have right feelings, but prepare yourself in advance to respond with a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, bearing with one another, & forgiving each other.
The Governor 3:16
What governs your interactions with others? Once that Umpire, the peace of Christ, makes the correct call, what is going to supply the motivation & the power for you to live as God calls His people to live? The word of Christ; “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” – meaning Christ’s word should live in you abundantly, governing your thinking and words and actions. Now, as Christ’s words govern how you live, what are you gonna see in your life look at 3:16 - 4:1; you’re gonna be singing songs/hymns/ spiritual songs with thanksgiving, wives submitting to their husbands, husbands loving their wives, children obeying their parents, fathers not exasperating their children, employees working as for the Lord, and bosses treating their employees with fairness.
This phrase, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” is synonymous with “Be filled with the Spirit” in Eph 5:18 – look what being with the Spirit results in Eph 5:19 – 6:9; you’ll be singing psalms/hymns/spiritual songs, giving thanks, wives submitting to their own husbands, husbands loving their wives, children obeying their parents, fathers not provoking their children, employees working as servants of Christ, bosses not threatening.
These are parallel passages addressing how Christians are called to live by seeking the things above, things of value, governing how you are to interact with others on a moment-by-moment basis.
This word of Christ is that proclamation about Christ that this church would have heard from their fellow citizen – that guy named Epaphras (1:7). This word of Christ would have been received from the Apostles teaching about Christ – [#1] who Jesus is and [#2] what He taught about how His followers should live. So, this word of Christ is the teaching from Jesus, that was passed along by the 12 Apostles, was taught by the Apostle Paul in this very letter, and spoken to them by Epaphras.
A. These words of Christ which have been preached to you, that should be living abundantly in the Church, how do they instruct you & what do they empower you to do?
1. Teach & admonish one another with all wisdom
a. Teaching = positive aspect of instruction, we’re instructing one another in sound, healthy doctrine (what Paul does in Col. 1 and 2) which then leads to the healthy spiritual life of “seeking the things above” type of living; 2Tim 3:16 “teaching”
b. Admonishing = negative aspect of instruction of confronting sin, 2Tim 3:16 “reproof, correction” - stressing the importance of repentance & obedience – which teaching we find in the very words of Christ; Luke 8:18, Jesus’ family are the people who “hear God’s word and do it.” John 15:10 – you abide in God’s love by obeying His commands – resulting on complete joy!
c. Teach & admonish with all wisdom, wisdom is knowing how to apply God’s word to your daily living. So you study God’s word, and you look at how Jesus approached situations of  need (He taught, fed, healed, etc.)  danger (He called for faith & He delivered), and  opposition (He remained steadfast) then you do what Jesus did. Wisdom - Prov 4:5-9,13
What will be the result of this wise living according to the word of Christ, this life of mutual teaching and admonishing?
2. Singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God – as one commentator has stated, this is the “the gentle cheerfulness of a grateful heart.” How does cheerfulness come about? By your continual remembrance of all the good & gracious gifts that you have received from your Heavenly Father. From this brief letter, let’s just review some of what your God has done for you:
1:12,13 giving thanks
Qualified you to share the inheritance of light
Delivered you from the domain of darkness
Transferred you to the kingdom of His beloved Son
Redeemed you by forgiving your sins
Reconciled you to Himself, though you had been alienated
Made you alive in Christ – Jesus came to make dead people alive!
You have died to your old self; you can put to death your old ways
You have been raised above with Christ to the right hand of God
And beyond all these benefits of God’s grace
God has filled you with the fullness of Christ (2:9,10); so that as a Christian, as someone who has been born from above, as a holy & beloved child of God (3:12), you lack nothing to live a God-honoring, Christ-centered, Gospel-focused, full abundant life on Planet Earth! Right here, right now!
So - how do you not respond to all these gracious benefits from our God by anything but the full-throated singing of songs/hymns/spiritual songs with all thankfulness!! APPLICATION: Train yourself to be regularly reminding yourself of all God’s gracious benefits to you – and sing with thankfulness.
The Ambassador 3:17
“do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” is similar to 1Cor 10:31 – where Paul says, “So then, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do – do all to the glory of God.” Doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus means that you are acting on behalf of Jesus Christ. As a person who has been raised above with Christ, you are one of His representatives, you’re one of His ambassadors; you’ve been renewed in knowledge after the image of your Creator (3:10); so that you’re now to be living your life in such a way as to communicate the ultimate value of the person you represent; the Lord Jesus, who in all things is preeminent (1:18).
And together, we are showing the world what a huge impact the peace of Christ and the word of Christ can have in the lives of people whose past life was earthly, deserving only God’s wrath. Your old self was selfish; and you were practicing idolatry by seeking your own greedy desires. But now, as a representative of Jesus Christ, you’re putting all those things to death, and you live as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus, mimicking His ways, seeking what is above - His peace and His word.
APPLICATION: Given the options that we can pursue, one of our immediate thoughts should be; which course of action is going to maximize our impact for the Kingdom of Christ? - that Kingdom into which we have all been transferred (1:13). So, we’re not only considering the peace of Christ to rule as umpire on our course of action, and we’re not only considering the word of Christ to instruct us toward implementing our course of action, but we’re also considering the fact that we are representing Christ, as ambassadors of Christ. And so we’re considering how we can best represent the Lord Jesus to this world, and so be used by the Lord Jesus to draw people into His Kingdom.
Examples from Scripture are: Acts 4:13; religious leaders observed the boldness & strength of the Apostles and recognized them as “having been with Jesus” and in Titus 2:10 where Paul instructs slaves about; “not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” The way we live is supposed to adorn, to decorate the doctrine of God, it should beautify our God to this world. The same way that ornaments decorate & beautify and draw attention to a Christmas tree, so our lives together should draw attention to our God & Savior.
Therefore, when either believers or unbelievers observe the life of our church, they’re should be seeing what a church life that pursues the things above actually looks like – and they would then be drawn to the Lord Jesus.
They should see Ambassadors of the Lord Jesus – people living with all their words & deeds being done in the name of the Lord Jesus – living in a way that reveals the value of the Lord Jesus (John 13:34,35).
The world will see the goodness and healthiness of His commands (vv12-14), they will see the wisdom of His warnings against earthly living (vv5,8,9); and they will see His power moving His people to live healthy lives according to sound doctrine – lives that are characterized by giving thanks to God the Father who has poured out an abundance of benefits on His people. Our response to the joy & privilege of representing Christ & His Kingdom should be “giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
How does the cheerfulness of a grateful heart accomplish all these things? By pointing to Someone beyond us – pointing to our God & Savior, the God who is working in us and for us. A life lived in thankfulness to God is a life that points to Another. So not only is singing with thanksgiving the appropriate & joyful response to all the gifts that God has given to us, but thankfulness is also a primary means to preserve and maintain our unity. And to express continual gratitude to God in response to the wisdom living that we receive from God is an excellent way of presenting the value of the Lord Jesus to those around us.
Today, let the peace of Christ be the umpire that rules over your difficult interactions in life – and be thankful; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly govern your life, singing with thankfulness; and as an ambassador of Christ, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.