The Hallmark of Genuine Christianity

The Hallmark of Genuine Christianity

When the message of Christ dwells among us richly, fueling our singing, our hearts will be filled with gratitude to God (3:16). In verse 17 Paul urges us to give thanks to God the Father through the Lord Jesus in whatever we are doing or saying. Thanksgiving is inevitable for those who know the message of Jesus; it also something we should consciously choose.

Confidence in the genuineness of any valuable commodity is often difficult. In 1300 King Edward I of England decreed that gold and silver had to be tested and approved by master craftsmen before being sold. Later, London artisans were required to bring finished metal goods to Goldsmiths’ Hall to be checked, and if those items met the quality standards of the craftmasters there, they would be marked with a special stamp of approval—called a Hallmark. But over the years the word came to refer to any mark guaranteeing purity or genuineness.

What is the hallmark of genuine Christianity? What is the outward sign that a person is truly Christian, or that a community of Christians is the real thing? What is the inevitable fruit of obeying the gospel? There are many potential hallmarks:

But I have been struck by another recurring note as the Bible describes those who know God in Christ: thanksgiving.

The Beginning of Thanksgiving

Lack of thanksgiving is the hallmark of the rebellious, unregenerate human heart (Rom 1:21). There is something pathetic and perverse when people’s hearts are filled with joy at the experiences of delight the world delivers, yet they refuse to thank the God from whose hand they come. Enjoyment of a delicious meal, a stunning sunset, an intimate moment—all have the capacity to overflow in thanks to their creator, but instead there are vague nods to Mother Nature or lucky stars. The truth gets suppressed because giving thanks to God means acknowledging his goodness and our dependence. It runs the risk of entering the world of moral obligation towards God which secular humanity wants to avoid at all costs.

When a person stops suppressing the truth and quits their rebellion, thanksgiving to God springs to life. At first it may only be gratitude for the experiences of common grace— food that nourishes the body and tastes good to boot, relationships that bring connection and joy, or the expanse of incredibly blue sky that thrills the eye. ‘For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving’ (1 Tim 4:4). The simple act of turning our joy in life into thanks to God is a profoundly relational event. Everything has changed.

But simple thanks to our Creator is the shallowest of Christian thanksgiving. For all true Christians have experienced God’s special grace to us in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every page of the New Testament rings with the thrill of grace lavished on undeserving sinners.

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