In Colossians 3 we have consecutive verses punctuated by a command to be thankful.
- (3.15) And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
- (3.16) 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.
- (3.17) 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.
Pretty clear here. Submit to the Lordship of Christ, inhale the word of God, exhale the praise of God, and do all to the glory of God—with an attitude of thanksgiving.
In the beginning of chapter 3 we read:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (3.1-4)
This priority for Christian living is anchored in the fact that you have been united to Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. And in fact you are living in light of the reality of being a citizen of Christ’s coming kingdom. We are governed and consumed by this glorious reality. This far outstrips any shadow of national pride we see and experience now. This is the joy of being a member of a new world that will forever be governed by Immanuel.
Furthermore, to elicit thanksgiving, Paul reminds us who Jesus is.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col. 1.15-20)
Jesus is God incarnate. He is the creator, sustainer and ultimate end of all things. He is the supreme authority. He rules the church. He is the rescuer of all that is broken. Awesome is understated synonym.
Further, he has come into this world to die for sinners. He won victory!
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, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Col. 2.13-14)
And listen, it is not just sinners in a general sense, some impersonal, undefined grab-bag of humanity. No, Christ came into the world to save sinners like me and you, particular people. Paul spoke of this like he was the only person in the world (Gal. 2.21) “he loved me and gave himself up for me…”
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him (Col. 1.21-22)
If you are like me you need some daily work done on your heart. You, (I) need to be reminded of the fact of what and who we have in Christ. It is the knowledge of this that leads to the emotion and experience of true gospel thanksgiving.