(This devotional is day twenty-four of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
When my wife and I married in 2012, we joined our lives together as one. Wedding rings symbolize this unbroken bond of union where I belong to her and she belongs to me. There’s not only the joy of companionship, but there’s also oneness through the covenant of marriage. What’s mine is now hers, and what’s hers is now mine. We not only take on one another’s assets, but we also take on one another’s debts. Her family becomes my family, and my family becomes her family. Even our emotional lives overlap because the things that burden my wife burden me. Spouses share sorrows, successes, and celebrations.
One of the greatest doctrines in the Christian faith is union with Christ. When we trust in Jesus, we’re united with him as one. Our identity becomes wrapped up in who we are in him.
Because Jesus took my sin and condemnation at the cross, I receive his righteousness and vindication through the resurrection (Col. 2:9–15). I definitely got the better end of this exchange. He took my baggage and I get his blessings. When the Father looks on me, he now sees me through my union with Christ. He sees the new me in Jesus. I am forgiven, cleansed, justified, adopted, and fully accepted. With this union to Christ comes communion with Christ. There’s friendship and intimacy. He even feels our burdens and pain.
The New Testament uses several metaphors to communicate this union and oneness. We abide in him like a branch in the vine (John 15:1–11). He’s the head and we’re the body, finding our life and authority in him (Eph. 1:21–22). He’s the groom and we’re the bride (Eph. 5:23). Baptism symbolizes our dying and being raised with him (Rom. 6:1–4). The Bible even tells us we’re seated with him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1–4). Paul often uses the phrase “in Christ” to refer to this deep and mysterious union (Col. 1:2).
Who we are in Christ now determines our standing before God, our identity, our purpose, and our destiny. He shares with us what belongs to him. All that we need, we now have because we have all things in him. There’s a lot to celebrate about this doctrine. Union with Christ is ignitor fluid for the fires of gratitude.
As we grow in understanding what it means that we are in Christ, it can change us. Not only do we find our forgiveness and justification in him (Rom. 5:12–21), but we find our freedom and sanctification in him (Rom. 6:1–11; 1 Cor. 6:11). Jesus gives us new life and is with us through the Spirit. All the resources of God are available to His people through our union with Christ. There is nothing we need that we don’t have in him.
In John Newton on the Christian Life, Tony Reinke offers this beautiful summary:
“If you have Christ, you have all of Christ, and to have all of Christ is to have free access to Christ’s all-sufficient grace. Grace is not a gate to fence us back from him. Grace is not a substitute for Christ. Grace does not stand between me and Christ. Rather, says Calvin, ‘All graces are bestowed on us through Christ.’ Grace is shorthand for the full and free access we have to all the merits and power and promises to be found in the person of our Savior (John 1:16-17; Eph. 2:7; 1 Cor. 1:4; 2 Cor. 8:9; 2 Tim. 2:1). Repeatedly, Newton accents ‘the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’ Grace is a stream from Christ, the fountain of all grace, he writes.”
Paul gives thanks to God because He “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). The infinite blessings given to us in Christ cause Paul to bless God with praise and thanksgiving. Like a small granola bar that packs in the protein, Ephesians 1:3–14 is a dense but delightful passage full of the blessings in Christ. This rich section of Scripture reminds us that because we have everything in Christ, we always have reasons to give thanks.
Union with Christ and Gratitude
God’s creation supplies many the earthly blessings for us (see Psalm 104 for examples). In Ephesians 1, Paul focuses on the “spiritual blessings” we have in Christ. I’m thankful for God’s material and physical blessings in my life (which can also be things like relationships, joy, and rest), but I’m also thankful for the spiritual blessings. As Christians, we’re not forced to pick one; God gives us both.
Ephesians 1 isn’t an exhaustive list of the blessings we have in Christ. But it does tell us about several blessings that lead Paul into grateful worship. If you ever struggle to notice God’s goodness around you, or you feel like life is hard, then go to this text in Ephesians to remind yourself of God’s abundant provision. It’s like a splash of cold of water to the face, only it wakes up our heart more than our body.
Paul tells us God sets His love on us and in Christ we are chosen (1:4), holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4), adopted (1:5), redeemed and forgiven (1:7), and lavishly covered by grace (1:7–8). We obtained an inheritance in him (1:11) and the Holy Spirit seals us (1:13). All this is “to the praise of his glory” (1:14). You could spend a day digging into every one of these rich blessings and what they mean for you today.
This is a great passage to remind us who we are in Christ and what we have in Christ. By soaking up the blessings belonging to us in him, it should stir up gratitude to him. We give thanks for the greatest of gifts, Jesus Christ, and for all that we receive by getting him.
Here are a few more examples of what the Bible says about every one of us in Christ. Don’t skim these truths. Chew on them. Believe them. Find hope in them today. Personalize them by saying I am:
- a recipient of God’s great mercy and grace (Eph. 2:4–5).
- redeemed and reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:19).
- forgiven, freed from condemnation and shame, and showered by grace God (Rom. 8:1).
- set free from ‘the law of sin and of death’ by ‘the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:2).
- a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
- given ‘the immeasurable riches of [God’s] grace” (Eph. 2:7).
- brought near to God (Eph. 2:13).
- called to God’s “eternal glory” (1 Peter 5:10).
- loved by God, now and forever (Rom. 8:39).
What are you walking through today? What do you need or long for? Consider all that you have in Jesus. Remember all God’s resources and blessings are available to you in Christ. Recalibrate your heart by giving thanks for specific blessings given to you in Christ.
 Tony Reinke, John Newton on the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 46.
To go deeper in biblical thanksgiving and understand how it leads us to know and enjoy God, check out my book The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of A Lost Spiritual Discipline.