Our church is getting ready to start a weekend message series called “Christian Redefined“, looking at what Jesus really said about the religion that bears his name. What was he expecting from us when he came to visit this planet?
I’m not in on the church’s planning meetings, but the new series announcement got me thinking about what it really means to be a Christian. I’ve written a lot about the importance of our posture towards God. We can either live our lives turned away from Him or turned towards Him. But what does that look like in practical terms?
In my post Moment by Moment, I talked about how I had turned away from God and stopped saying “forgive me”, but ended the post talking about thankfulness. It wasn’t until I did a “mini-series” on Forgiveness that I realized what was really going on.
We only ask for God’s forgiveness one time: at the moment that we acknowledge that Jesus has saved us from ourselves by dying for us and coming back to life again. In that “lightbulb” moment where it all comes clear, we see that we need God’s forgiveness. But God forgave us long before we turned away from Him. He forgave us before we were even born. Now, I don’t understand how all of that worked, and I wrote about that, if you’d like to read more: A Forgiven Atheist? What I do know is that we don’t have to keep asking for forgiveness over and over again, and I wrote about that here: Garbage Truck Confession
So, if Christianity isn’t about asking forgiveness over and over, what is it about? I think it’s about developing new habits, not “trying harder”, but training our minds to respond wisely. I’d like to talk about 3 specific training areas:
1) saying thank you
2) saying bless you
3) asking “what am I to do?”
I have too much to say about each of those, so I’m going to break them up into 3 different posts. Let’s start here, with saying thank you:
Yes, we’re human, so we’re selfish and we want to be in control. We’re going to turn away from God and do what we want to do. Over and over and over again. But God did something really beautiful. When Jesus died and was resurrected, he said it was good that he was going away because he would send us his Holy Spirit (John 6:7-11). He calls his Spirit the Advocate, the Counselor, the Helper, because He will help us and counsel us. What happens if we go to a counselor for help and then don’t listen to them? Can they help us if we’re not listening? Nope. The Holy Spirit will tell us when we have turned away from God, but we have to be listening. And when we hear Him and turn back to God the Father, what’s the most appropriate response? “Thank you!” All day long, every time our thoughts are turned to God, thank Him.
I was driving to get my taxes done yesterday, which is almost an hour drive each way. Thankfully, the roads were clear, but there were a few snow showers that seemed to come out of nowhere and disappear almost as quickly as they started. There were big trucks that were entirely too close to my car for my liking. And there was a headache behind my eyes that just wouldn’t go away. But every time my thoughts came back to “Thank you, Lord”, “Thank you, Jesus” or “Thank you, Lord Jesus”, my body calmed down and the drive was smoother. There is something healing and freeing in the words “thank you”, especially when they’re directed towards God.
When I was in counseling 3 years ago, working through the aftermath of a nervous breakdown, my counselor told me, “Stop saying “I’m sorry” and start saying “Thank you”.” I had gotten myself into a crazy pattern of needing help, getting help, feeling guilty for being a bother, falling apart and saying “I’m sorry” over and over and over again. I was surrounded by people who wanted to help me, but I felt so guilty for causing such a mess. But my counselor was absolutely correct. If I someone helped me and I immediately said, “Thank you”, the guilt never came , I stopped falling apart and my pitiful, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” cycle never started. Thank you, Jesus!!
In the Apostle Paul’s 1st letter to the church at Thessalonica, he gives them these instructions:
“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
If we don’t know what God’s will is for our lives, now we do: joyful, thankful prayer in all circumstances, all day long, no matter what happens. “Happiness” depends on what “happens” to us. Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And what does the Holy Spirit remind us to do? Turn around and say “Thank you!”
As I’m writing this post, this song is playing on WOW Cable’s Music Choice channel 534. Something tells me I should include it here. 🙂
33 Miles – “Thank You”
What if I looked at my life in a different way
Took a little more time to stop and pray
I know it would change all the moments in between