The Grateful

“Be filled with the Spirit…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” Ephesians 5:20

I have always been intrigued by band names. One of my favorite names is “Creedence Clearwater Revival.” There is a lot going on there with that name. John Fogerty, at 69 years of age, is still performing, and we are all still waiting for “The Revival.” Another name that has caught my attention is, “The Grateful Dead.” It’s fan base, The Dead Heads, expressed such devotion to Jerry Garcia, the leader of the band, that he was elevated to near cult status before his death at 53 years of age.

Words mean things long after a band and the fans have forgotten why the names were chosen. This morning I find myself praying “The Revival” and thinking about “The Grateful Dead.”

Paul encouraged the early church to die to self, daily and to be grateful to God, always. He reminded them that thanksgiving was one of the vital signs of the fullness of the Spirit. He warned them that those who were unable to express gratitude to God, in the name of Jesus, were not full of The Spirit. To be more accurate, their mouths would reveal they were full of themselves, not imitators of God.

Paul encouraged the early disciples to “Be imitators of God.” (Ephesians 5:1) The finest picture of the character of God is provided by the prayer life of the Lord Jesus Christ. His prayer life was the essential expression of His personal and preferred form of communication with The Father. Persistent, personal prayer, performed privately and publicly, proved to be the primary source of His power for ministry.

Note to self: If you want to imitate God, and be like Jesus, stop whining and start praying. God knows the difference. You should too.

Paul describes prayer as the elementary expression of a person who is filled with The Spirit and intimately connected to The Father, in the name of The Son. Paul describes thanksgiving in prayer as a basic vital sign of the Spirit’s fullness, not the height of spiritual devotion reserved for only the elite few.  

The facts of physical life are clear. Where there is no breath, there is no life. In similar fashion, the Spirit-filled life does not exist where there is no prayer. Without The Spirit’s fullness, there is no breath of life. Where there is prayer, those who have died to self immediately express their gratitude to God for their new life in Christ. The born again are truly, “The Grateful Dead.” The way they come on is also the they way they go on, with gratitude and in prayer.  

Paul said that the first positive sign of being an imitator of God would be the “giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 5:4) It is hard to imagine this being done without the expression of personal, private, public, and persistent prayer.

Gratitude is the practical display of grace. It is not an emotion, as much as it is devotion. It is the over-riding expression of believers in the face of over-whelming crises and in the face of irritating people. Early believers weren’t given time to warm up the idea, or to mature or grow into the attitude of gratitude. On the contrary, they had to die to take their first breath. Like newborn babies they were desperate for air, and needed no training to do it. Breathing came naturally. So did screaming.

Dying to self precedes being filled with The Spirit. People who are full of self are incapable of being filled with The Spirit. Self has to die before The Spirit will fill. The Spirit goes where He is welcomed, not stiff-armed, grieved or resisted.

“The Grateful Dead” is not a well-worn term of expression for The Spirit Filled Life, but I maintain that is a pretty accurate one. Paul describes gratitude as the earliest sign of imitating God, and the result of being filled with The Spirit. Those who are void of thanksgiving to God, may be alive, but they don’t have life. Don’t take my word for it.

“I am The Way, The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” Jesus – John 14:6

True believers are those who have been crucified with Christ. They didn’t just come to the cross. They died there. Dying daily maintains a perspective on life that can only be obtained by a view from the cross. Those who die to self and refuse to take a self-centered, self-absorbed, self-glorifying breath put themselves in the position to receive the fullness of The Spirit.

The Spirit brings the fullness of the character of Jesus into the life of the believer. The Spirit maintains, and sustains the attitude of gratitude in the life of “The Grateful Dead.”

Prayers of thanksgiving indicate death to self, invite the fullness of The Spirit, and release the Christ life in believers, for the honor and glory of God. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!