************ Sermon on Colossians 3:15-17 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on November 25, 2004

Colossians 3:15-17
"Be Thankful"
Thanksgiving Day 2004

Today is Thanksgiving Day. Today, of all days, we want to bring and give thanks to God for His many good and gracious gifts.
Topic: Thankfulness
Title: Go Ahead and Embarrass Thankless People

A mother took her three children to a restaurant to eat breakfast one morning. The smallest of the three children sat at the very end of the row. She saw other people being served and eating right away without stopping to say thanks. It surprised her. When the food was served to her, she shouted out to her mother: "Mommy, don't people ask the blessing in this place?" You can well imagine the embarrassment of those present. Her mother tried to hush her. But, the waitress said to little Mary, "Yes, we do, sister! You give thanks!" Amazingly, at that very moment everybody else also bowed their heads and offered thanks.
Why did it take a little child to make these people give thanks? Shouldn't every day be Thanksgiving Day?

Our text exhorts us, "And be thankful." It is pagans who are not thankful. One of the reasons why Paul indicts the pagan world in the first chapter of Romans is that "although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him" (Rom 1:21). Thanksgiving is God's due. Thanksgiving is what all men and all creatures and all of creation owes to God for His gifts of creation and providence. And, thanksgiving is especially God's due from those who have received the surpassing gift of His grace.

I Imitate Christ
A Who are we as Christians? We are women and men and children who have "died with Christ" (Col 2:16) and have been "raised with Christ" (Col 3:1). We are women and men and children who are God's chosen people; we are choice souls whom God has set apart for Himself and on whom He has placed His love.

Now, this should and does impact the way we live. This should be displayed in qualities that were preeminently displayed by Christ to the point where the Apostle can say, "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 13:14). This means we should exhibit the nature of Christ Himself.

B On this Thanksgiving Day we need to realize that one of the ways we imitate Christ is by being thankful. If ever there was anyone with a gratitude attitude, it was Christ Jesus. If ever there was anyone whose whole life was a song of thanks to God, it was Christ Jesus (cf Mk 6:41; Mk 8:6-7; Mk 14:22-23).

Today is Thanksgiving Day. Across our land people will gather together with their loved ones and will sit down before a table loaded with a banquet of food. Many of them, I am afraid, will not give a thought or a prayer to the God Who has blessed them with so much.

We expect that sort of thoughtless behavior from unbelievers, from our secular neighbors and co-workers. But what is even more tragic is that many church members supposed Christians will also celebrate Thanksgiving Day without once giving thanks to God.
Topic: Thanksgiving
Index: 1457
Date: 11/2004.101

The story is told of a heavenly archangel who gave two lower angels baskets and sent them to earth. They were to collect prayers in the baskets and return to heaven.
One angel's basket was soon filled with numerous petitions and requests for help. But the other angel was miffed; his basket was empty. He was supposed to collect all the prayers of thanksgiving. After a whole night's work, he hadn't found a single one.
This story exaggerates the situation, of course. But it does raise a point. Too many times we come to the Almighty God as prayer beggars rather than as praise givers. Too many times we come to God with our requests give me, bless me, help me, protect me, and so on rather than with our praises thank You, praise You, bless You, and so on. So today, of all days, we come to God with our thanks.

As chosen people, as loved people, as people who have died with Christ and been raised with Christ be thankful. In fact, Paul mentions thankfulness three times in the short passage in front of us:
-verse 15 - "be thankful"
-verse 16 - "sing ... with gratitude in your hearts to God"
-verse 17 - "giving thanks to God"

II The Motivation for Christian Living
A In our Scripture reading Paul lays out one of the motivations for Christian living. Why should we want to live the new life? Why should we obey God and keep His commandments? Why should we set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col 3:2)? Why should we rid ourselves of sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lies (Col 3:5-9)? Why should we clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Col 3:12)? Why should we bear with each other and forgive each other and put on love (Col 3:13-14)?

One of the reasons for living the new life is thankfulness. Out of thankfulness to God we want to live the new life. Out of thanksgiving for all the physical and spiritual blessings He has given to us we want to respond with obedience and holiness and righteous living.

B Notice why we are to live the new life. We should not be motivated to live the new life because of guilt. We should not be motivated to live the new life because of fear. We should not be motivated to live the new life because of obligation.

Just about every world religion reduces life to a list of dos and don'ts. Many Christians go along with this mindset and reduce their religion to a matter of dos and don'ts. But this is not why we observe the law or live the new life or try to be obedient and holy. Our motivation is never legalism. Our motivation is never with how our religious life looks to other people.

Christians do not obey God in order to get rid of their guilt or in order to earn their salvation. They obey because God already has removed their guilt and given them the free gift of salvation. Obedience is the Christian's way of saying thank you for the gift of salvation.

Paul reminds us on this Thanksgiving Day that all obedience flows out of a heart filled with gratitude to God. And, if you think about it, there is so much to be thankful for: food, clothing, shelter, family, relationships, education, business, economy, country, grace, Gospel, church, and missions (to name only a few).

III Give Thanks
A "Be thankful," says our text. "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

"Whatever you do" sounds all inclusive, doesn't it?! Does Paul mean that we need to give thanks all day long? Is Paul suggesting that we need to give thanks before, during, and after all of our daily activities?

Yes, that is exactly what he is saying! Give thanks whether you are working or resting, whether you are learning or teaching, whether you are leading or following, whether you are doing the laundry or driving a truck, whether you are delivering a meal to a shut-in or visiting a loved one, whether you are playing a game or reading a book. Whatever it is that you are doing, give thanks that you are able to do it, that you have the opportunity to do it, that God has given you the ability and strength to do it.

B Notice according to our text how we are to give thanks. Paul says,
(Col 3:17) And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We give thanks to God, we show thanks to God, when all that we do is done in the name of the Lord Jesus.

This means that all of our life is supposed to be an offering to Jesus. Every task is supposed to be dedicated to His service. Every calling is supposed to be done before Him and for His glory.

A concrete example of this is found in Paul's instruction to slaves in verses 22-23 of Colossians 3:
(Col 3:22-23) Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (23) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men ...
Whatever we do, we are to do for the Lord! That's what Paul is saying.

Let me offer two more illustrations of this kind of thankful living:
Topic: Example
Subtopic: Inspiration of
Index: 4173

The well-known minister, Andrew Bonar brought home a brick from his travels in the area of ancient Babylon. One Sunday he showed it to his congregation. He said that every brick in the temple from which it was taken bore the name of the king who was reigning at the time the structure was built. Making the application, Bonar said, "We must let everything we do bear the name of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ."
Some time later, a woman came to the minister and exclaimed, "Those bricks. Oh, those bricks of Babylon!" Sensing the implication of her statement, he asked, "Did you find them while sweeping the floors?" "No," she said, "I found them while making the beds. You remember you said that everything we did should bear the name of our Savior. Well, shortly after that, I had to change the beds, a job I thoroughly dislike. So I said, 'I will do this in the name of Jesus and for His glory!'"

Or, consider the example of a man known as Brother Lawrence:
Topic: Worship
Subtopic: True Attitude in
Index: 3923

Brother Lawrence was a cook in a monastery. He learned to press meaning into virtually every action of his day. Note his capacity to see not only meaning but also purpose in his labor:
"I turn my little omelette in the pan for the love of God. When it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and worship my God, who gave me this grace to make it, after which I arise happier than a king. When I can do nothing else, it is enough to have picked up a piece of straw for the love of God.
This is the kind of attitude the Lord wants us to have. This is thankful living.

C Our text also tells us of one other way we can show thanks to God this list is not meant to be exhaustive. We know, for instance, that prayer is a very important part of the thankfulness God requires of us too. That's why we pray so much in our Thanksgiving Day service. And, the offering, the giving of gifts, is a very important part of our thanksgiving as well. But back to our text. Paul says,
(Col 3:16) ... sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
One of the primary ways we show thanks is in song. One of the main reasons we sing is to thank and praise God.

My brothers and sisters, get in the habit of thanking God all day long. Get in the habit of doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. Sing, pray, give gifts, live the new life, imitate Jesus all out of thankfulness to God.

That's the message of the Bible on this Thanksgiving Day.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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