I am a stickler for truth in advertising. When the Bible talks about God’s commands as not burdensome or His yoke as light, I want to know how this happens. Because, quite frankly, I have felt the weight and burden of Christ’s commands and it was not always pleasant. And I do not think I am alone in that feeling.
What lifted the burden for me was an understanding of all that changed at my new birth. And one of the changes was an infusion of a new nature – an infusion of the righteousness of Christ – such that obeying Christ’s commands is now my new normal. I am not saying my new normal is always easy, but following Christ’s commands has become my second nature and yours too.
When we recognize that Christ is literally living His life through us, that He is in the yoke with us (after all Jesus calls it “His yoke” and I fully expect Him to be in there with me), it lifts the burden. On the other hand, when we fail to embrace or believe or expect that Christ is living His life through us, we become worn down, oppressed, and yes, burdened by all that He requires. Our Christian life turns sour and gratefulness is the furthest thing from our minds.
But when we recognize that the gospel message is not only about our initial salvation, but also informs our new power to live the life now, a thankful heart is our natural response. We can not add anything to what Christ has done for us. We cannot live the life He wants to live through us by will power and shutting Him out. We cannot lift ourselves up to righteousness by our bootstraps and true grit. No, we live the life by accepting all that Christ has accomplished on our behalf.
In the book of Colossians, Paul explains that legalism – working our way to righteousness – is not only foolish, but has no value in defeating the flesh. He goes on to explain that we live the life, defeat the flesh, and experience victory over sin by living into our new nature; by putting on the new self. And this new self is infused with thanksgiving.
Gratefulness is so much a part of our new life that Paul comes back to it for three verses in a row as He concludes his treatise on the new self. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:15-17).
In your unity and peace, give thanks. In Christ’s word dwelling within you, give thanks. In your singing, give thanks. And then it is as if Paul looks up and says, “You know the more I think about it, just go ahead and give thanks in everything you do” (vs 17). Thanksgiving and a grateful heart are that important.
May I encourage you this thanksgiving to thank the Lord for His goodness. To thank the Lord for the friends and family in your life. To thank the Lord for His material blessings. But don’t forget to thank Him for making you a new creation; a new you with a soft and grateful heart.