A Christian is someone who fundamentally should be a deeply thankful person. Some of the reasons for this can be seen in Colossians 3:12–17, which lists characteristics that we are to “put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (v. 12).
To be chosen by God, not because we are smarter or stronger or theologically more savvy than others but simply because God loves us, should both humble us and make us rejoice. In Christ, we are holy and we are God’s beloved children for all eternity. With that in mind, you and I as believers should be humble when we interact with other people. We are not better than they are; it is merely by God’s grace that we have received God’s forgiveness (v. 13) and God’s love. Therefore, we are to love and serve God first and then other people. Mark 10:45 says,“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
A Grateful Heart
Yet, when we interact more closely with people, it doesn’t take long to realize that people can be difficult and that they are sinful. The question, then, is, How do we respond? Do we withdraw from them, at least to a certain extent, and show them less love and less Christ-centered service?
As we spend much time in God’s Word and as we sing with grateful hearts to our great God, we are strengthened in our inner man to love and to serve.
The message of the gospel is exactly the opposite: because you and I are difficult and sinful, Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins and make us more and more like Him. As we grow in Christlikeness, we will less and less withdraw from people and we will less and less cut them off from our lives and service. In Colossians 3:14, God says, “Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” A grateful heart shows itself in loving service to God and to other people. The more grateful we are for God’s grace and love in our lives, the more eager, committed, and determined we will be to love and to serve others—even when they are difficult and sinful.
Freedom to Serve
Sometimes when I as a pastor become tired of difficult and sinful people, I have to remind myself that Jesus never gives up on me and that He never stops loving and serving me. In Colossians 3:15, God tells us: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” It is the peace of Christ, the fact that Jesus has completely forgiven me and that I am perfectly loved by Him, that helps me love and serve others. I don’t need to receive a certain amount of love or respect from other people in order to serve them (even though we all want to receive some love and respect from other people). In Christ, I find perfect peace, perfect acceptance, perfect love, and perfect faithfulness. No one loves me more than Jesus Christ does, and no one is more committed to me than Jesus Christ is. That gives me a peace that passes understanding and sets me free to love and serve people no matter what.
Strength through Worship
One practical way that we can be strengthened to live according to these great truths is found in Colossians 3:16, where Paul says, “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.” As we spend much time in God’s Word and as we sing with grateful hearts to our great God, we are strengthened in our inner man to love and to serve. Verse 17 is a wonderful way to close this precious passage in the Bible: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
There are innumerable reasons why we are to be grateful to God. I will mention one more. In Hebrews 12:28–29, God tells us, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” The fact that God’s kingdom cannot be shaken gives us security and peace, and it is a great encouragement to serve our holy God by worshiping Him with reverence and awe. To God alone be the glory.
Rev. Steffen Mueller is church-planting pastor of Gospel Church München in Munich, Germany.