The Joys of Our Salvation
Three Reasons to Be Thankful
Is your life lacking thankfulness? Here we find God’s great remedy. Much of our joy in Christ depends upon being thankful for what he has done for us. We must not neglect his great salvation (Heb. 2:3), but understand it more clearly, often think about it, and hold fast to it. “Do not forget” is the Christian’s great strategy for thankfulness in the midst of our warfare and pilgrimage.
The apostle begins Colossians with faith – specifically, faith in Jesus Christ. Everything depends upon our “receiving and resting upon him,” as our Catechism teaches us. To receive him is to trust his finished work on Calvary, his heavenly intercession for us, and his abiding presence through the Word and Spirit. We receive Jesus Christ because he is the God-Man sent from heaven to reveal the Father’s love, the only Savior from sin, the living Bread who gives everlasting life. Faith rests upon him because he has accomplished everything required for our deliverance from sin and death, our liberty from Satan’s foul deceptions, and our peace with a reconciled God. Faith rests thankfully in him, for whatever troubles God sends, he is preserving us and our heavenly inheritance. Glory and joy are approaching; faith looks to Jesus and anticipates life with him forever – and thus is thankful. And thankfulness feeds joy.
Love is added, for “faith works through love” (Gal. 5:6). Faith first manifests itself in love for God and love for his people (Ps. 16:3). Love is the leading fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Love is the mark that we are God’s children and have his seed of eternal life planted in our hearts (1 John 4:7; 5:1-2). We love God when we love his children. Considering how much hate is in the world, brotherly love should make us very thankful. Love is Christ’s life in our midst, his loving us through our loving each other.
Hope – how we have weakened this word by making it depend upon how we feel about our lives in the world! Faith and love without hope may exist, but they will be like spindly pine saplings or a trickling oasis in the wilderness. But hope, which is confident expectation of God’s promises, makes us soar like an oak so that thankfulness and joy flow like a mighty river. Get hope, believer, for we are saved by hope (Rom. 8:24). We endure difficulties with thankful hearts by the power of hope leading our faith heavenward. Faith opens heaven where we see Jesus; hope clings to his promise and overcomes. Observe carefully that our hope is “laid up for us in heaven.” It is not to be found in earthly things, where our circumstances quickly change, pain can be debilitating, troubles abound, and enemies threaten. Hope teaches us to look heavenward and trust God’s gospel. Hope lays hold of heaven and its joy, not because we necessarily feel it but because God promises.
The Gospel Always Bears Fruit
God has sent the gospel of his Son into the world so that “the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isa. 35:1). One of his gracious purposes is to transform by his grace the sin-ravaged desert of the world into a beautiful garden of holiness (Zech. 14:20). This transformation is effected solely by our Savior’s gospel. He has been sent from heaven as Bread, Life, and Salvation. Outside of him, there is nothing but “sin, death, and judgment” (Rom. 5:12-19).
The fruits of the gospel can be found everywhere – justified and sanctified men, holy and God-seeking families, loving, worshipping congregations of believers, and sometimes peoples who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and bow their knees and lives to him. In this verse, the fruit is both universal and personal: “all the world” and “in you.” In each case, the fruit has the same source: the word of the truth of the gospel. The gospel is God’s good news of life and salvation in Jesus Christ. The expectation of faith in his gospel is “much fruit” (John 15:5,15) “I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Abundant life and much fruit come from personal union and communion with Jesus Christ. Fruit is not a latent principle already existing in us, an intrinsic spirituality that requires only a little stimulation to bring forth. We are dead in sin (Eph. 2:1). All life and fruit come from outside us. This is an important truth, for many try to turn the gospel and Christian faith into natural forces or powers that lie within us. In ourselves, however, we are barren deserts. We are not basically good and noble, but desperately and deceitful wicked, as the prophet said. We must be persuaded of our plight before we shall hunger for the true deliverance that only Jesus gives.
Jesus Christ makes us fruitful as we abide in his gospel, his word. He says “the flesh profits nothing.” “Flesh” is all that proceeds from man in his fallen rebellion and blindness. Not the smartest flesh, the wisest, the most sophisticated, or the wealthiest have anything but profitless flesh. “My words are spirit and life” (John 6:63). This is because we were created to live and to thrive by the Word of our Maker. We rebelled against his light and life, but he mercifully sent his Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, into the world. His voice gives life to the dead (John 5:25). As we abide in his word (John 8:31-32; 15:7) – understand it, believe it, keep it – we bear fruit – holiness, joy, peace, spiritual gifts, everlasting life – from his fullness. “Grace and truth come by Jesus Christ” (John 1:14,17).
Expect fruit from the living Word, Jesus Christ. “And the word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24; 19:20; Matt. 13:23). Sow Jesus and his living word in your life, and you will bear fruit. Sow in tears; reap in joy. The power of our Savior will rest upon you. He will “bring forth the fruits of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11). Be patient; continue in his word; pray for the rain of the Spirit; use the means of his grace (Rom. 2:7). The good news of Jesus Christ believed, plowed into your life, understood, and obeyed, will make your fruitful in every good work (Col. 1:10). The principle of new life in Jesus Christ is “grow in grace and knowledge” (2 Pet. 3:18). God’s will is your fruitfulness, now and forever. And the whole world is destined to blossom. Tend your garden carefully and with expectation. God’s word will never be unfruitful (Isa. 55:11).
Never Stop Praying for These
I bless God daily for the prayers in Colossians – and Ephesians and Philippians – for they are gems of grace for our encouragement. Hearing of the Colossians’ love – and the apostle always blessed God for the graces he saw in others, for he knew these were our Savior’s work and evidences of his glorious presence with us – he prayed day and night for them.
First, to have a spiritual understanding of his will – this is not mystical understanding, as if we are to pray for the ability to find out secrets. It is a far greater grace to understand God’s will spiritually and wisely each day. For example, to consider my work and responsibilities not as drudgery but as the way I glorify God. This requires spiritual wisdom and understanding. We must ask God for this spiritual wisdom – or Spirit-produced wisdom. He gives the Spirit to his children who ask him (Luke 11:13).
He next shows what this spiritual wisdom and understanding are – “to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Here is each day laid out for us – to please the Lord in all things. We have no strength for this, but this is the reason we pray. Our Father has all strength, and we must seek it from him. This includes fruitfulness – he is glorified when we bear much fruit (Matt. 5:16). The more we grow in the knowledge of his greatness and glory, as well as his nearness and sufficiency – the clearer we see God’s beauty and worthiness, the happier, more contented, and more passionate we shall be to please him. Pray for this!
But does not the apostle remember how weak we are? Of course. He was often “pressed on every side,” once so much that he despaired of life and had to learn to cast himself completely upon the “God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9). And this is the exact prayer here. Strengthen us with your omnipotence, loving Father, according to the measure of your strength. What a great hope we have that whatever God ordains for us and brings to us – even if it requires “patience and longsuffering,” he will supply all the strength we need. Ask. Keep asking – for his honor, kingdom, and will to be done. He will not turn you away. He is your Father and loves you. Wait patiently; he will bring it to pass.