Raised With Christ, Part IV: With Thankfulness in [Our] Hearts to God
The final session of the retreat focused on Colossians 3:12-17. I’ll sum up what we talked about in a question. “When an unbeliever looks at my life, how will they know that I’ve been transformed by the gospel?” Or, “Does my life as a believer look any different than their lives as unbelievers?” The last five verses of this passage focus on the outward manifestations of the gospel’s transforming work in our lives. There are a lot of parallels between this post and my first post about the retreat, so think back a little.
Session 3 focused on “putting off” or “killing” sin in our lives. This final session focused on “putting on” or “pursuing” righteousness as a believer. Sin is our default nature, which means that if we simply “put off” sin, we’ll be left with a void that will simply fill up with more sin. We are to put on (this list from Col. 3 is not extensive, but it is a very good start!): “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.” Rather then simply going on the defensive by saying, “I’m NOT going to do these things”, Paul is calling us to go on the offensive by pursuing these qualities in Col. 3:13-14 (and really the whole passage). We must actively fill ourselves up with righteousness, in the strength that Christ provides, or we will simply fall in to more sin.
The phrase that really struck me from this passage is “with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” This phrase refers to the gospel…namely, the fact that we are saved from the wrath of God in Christ. Namely, we ought to be intensely thankful when we understand the gospel. We’re called to be Bible-saturated (v. 16), teach and admonish (v. 16), sing (v. 16), do everything for the glory of God (v. 17)…all in light of the gospel. The point is that if we truly understand the gospel, we will be thankful. And if we are truly thankful for the gospel to the extent that we ought to be, that thankfulness will express itself outwardly. That tells me that I need to hear the gospel more often. If I am not thankful for grace as I should be, I’d better make it a point to saturate myself more fully in the gospel until I get it by His grace.
Finally, the gospel must change the way we view ourselves and others. I get this from the phrase “forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you” (vs. 13, emphasis mine). Because God forgave us, we should forgive others. It’s so easy for me to become self-focused while pursuing righteousness. I know how I ought to act, and it’s often hard to move on when I mess up. In the same way, it’s often hard to look past the failings of my brothers and sisters in Christ. But the fact is that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Not only that, but God sees the righteousness of His Son when He looks at us (2 Corinthians 5:21). We still ought not sin, as we saw in the previous passage. Yet we all still mess up, and we’re all still forgiven in Him. Why is it harder for us to forgive ourselves and others than it is for God to forgive us in Christ? We need a more God-centered, gospel-embracing, self-abasing perspective of the world.
In all these things, Christ is all I really need. I pray that He would become all I really want.