In our Lord’s Day service yesterday morning we studied Luke 17:11-19 together. In this text, Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one returns to give glory to God by thanking Christ. The root reason the one man returned to thank God, whereas the other nine did not, is that his heart had been changed by Christ. He had not merely been healed of physical leprosy, but the Savior more importantly healed the leprosy that covered his heart—sin. Verse 19 says that this one’s faith made him well. “Well” is from sozo, meaning “saved.” What distinguished this one man from the other nine is not that his mother had been more successful in teaching him to say “Thank you,” but rather that he had been made a new creature in Christ. This truth of conversion then led us to the third chapter of Colossians where we see very clearly that the apostle’s exhortations concerning thankfulness grow out of his new-creature-in-Christ theology.
Here’s a project for you. Take some time this week in your personal, family, or small-group study to mine some treasure from Colossians 3:1-3; 15-17. Here are four practical application points to get you started.
- Recognize gratitude as an attitude of the new self. The third chapter of Colossians is all about putting off the old man and putting on the new self, who is being renewed day by day according to the image of Christ (v. 10). Therefore, we conclude that ingratitude is a characteristic of the flesh, the old self. We really must get beyond the simplistic belief that being thankful is simply what polite people do. The issue is much deeper than having good or bad manners. The absence of a grateful spirit is contrary to our new calling in Christ, which is why the apostle teaches elsewhere that complaining produces an ugly, dim witness for Christ (Phil 2:14-15).
- Let the peace of God rule your heart through prayer (Col 3:15; Phil 4:6-7). An attitude of gratitude is directly connected to whether or not the peace of God is a ruling motive of our heart. Peace of God is different from peace with God. Peace with God is positional—we are no longer enemies of God, but submissive kingdom-citizens, children, and friends (Col 1:21-22; 1 Jn 3:2; Jn 15:15). The peace of God is experiential—a calm assurance that guards our inner person through the Spirit, Word-based trust, and prayer (Rom 14:17; Isa 26:3; Phil 4:6-7).
- Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, which leads to singing Christ-exalting songs (Col. 3:16). As we take time to meditate on the Word of God it sinks deeply into our very being—challenging and changing our mind’s thoughts and heart’s motives—producing joy. This joy then produces a desire to sing Christ-exalting praises throughout the week. A few questions: When do you sing praise to God? Is the corporate gathering of God’s people for worship the only time you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? If so why? What changes do you need to make concerning your intake of the Word of God or the response of your will to biblical truth? It seems clear from this text, and its parallel in Ephesians 5:18-20, that a thankful spirit flows from a heart touched by grace, controlled by the Spirit, and fed by the Word. What’s going on in your heart?
- Carry out all of your work diligently, for the glory of Christ, with thanksgiving (Col. 3:17). Every task that is assigned to us as believers is sacred. It is an opportunity to show forth the glory of the One who has saved us from the penalty and power of our sin. Doing all things “in the name of Christ” means to do all our work with diligence while “giving thanks” through Christ to the Father.
As you delve into this life-transforming text of Scripture may the Lord richly bless your life with an ever-growing attitude of gratitude.
[To learn more about renewing your mind with Scripture, read the book Counseling One Another.]
UPDATE: The practice of giving thanks is also one way to fight anxiety. Learn more in ANXIETY: Knowing God’s Peace (31-Day Devotional).