Text: Colossians 3:1-11
There are practical implications that should become evident to us if we surrender to supremacy of Christ. It does little good if we can declare and defend the truth but fail to demonstrate it in our lives. We make a mockery of ourselves and of Christ.
We don’t really want to be like those people described in Titus 1:16: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.” The pagan religions of Paul’s day taught little or nothing about personal morality. A worshipper could bow before an idol, put his offering on the altar, and go back to the same old life of sin. What a person believed had no direct relationship with how he behaved. Unfortunately that sounds like a lot of us! But, Christianity is much different.
Duty is always connected to doctrine. To try to keep this in context up until this point in Colossians Paul has been arguing that we are set free from the powers around us, and now he tells us that we have been set free for living a life above moral reproach. We have been set free from our previous life, but for a purpose. To live a better life.
God’s plan is to first make us new; then He challenges us to live as new people. In short, we don’t always have to be the way we’ve always been. We can break free from the past, if we know where to look.
This is where our text kicks in. First, he tells us to look Up! Instead of gazing at the ground, we must first look up!
We see in Colossians 3:1-4: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
This opening phrase is similar to Colossians 2:20: “Since you died with Christ…”
Since we died with Christ, we don’t have to follow the rules of a hollow and deceptive philosophy. Colossians 3:1 establishes the truth that since we’ve been raised with Christ, we have a new status and therefore a new way of life. We now have a power source for living.
Believers have died with Christ, been buried with Him, have been raised with Him, and we have been seated with Him in the heavenly places. This is our position, but we must appropriate or take these truths on a daily basis in order to break free from our past. And that is why Paul writes, “set your hearts on things above.”
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.” And although I guess that’s possible, I think it’s much more likely that people today are so worldly minded that they’re no heavenly or earthly good.
If we truly set our hearts on things above, we will experience power and freedom here on earth. The word “set” means to seek something out with a desire to possess it, to take it over, to make it ours. The word is in the present tense, which means that we’re to continue to seek the things above. It’s not just a one-time decision, but is meant to be a daily activity.
Jesus puts it this way in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If our focus is on things that will ultimately rust, tarnish, break down, or burn up, our energy and emotions will be misplaced and wasted. If we seek out Christ and allow Him to become our ultimate treasure, our hearts will follow.
Knowing that “Christ is seated at the right hand of God” provides a much-needed reminder that Jesus is supreme and in control; always in control.
This phrase echoes Psalm 110:1, which is the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” Jesus is exalted and sits at the right hand of the Father, which shows that His redemptive work is now complete.
The first directive is to “set our hearts on things above.” The second is to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This literally translates, “Keep on thinking, as a matter of habit, on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Our feet must be on earth, but our minds must be in heaven. Thoughts can influence actions, so if we place our thoughts above and not on the earth, our behavior will reflect those things that matter to God. This requires determined and dogged effort on our part because, by nature we tend to look down, instead of looking up. But if we glue our gaze on things above, God will change our desires. And if we can change our mind, God will change our heart.
We need to put our brain in gear by concentrating on those things that are spelled out in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” By seeking what Christ desires, we have the power to break our obsessions, fixations and fascinations with pleasure and the accumulation of things.
In verses 3 and 4, we are given five reasons to look up.
First, we’ve died (3a): This points back to the cross where we died in Christ. As a result of His sacrifice, we have no obligation to live like we used to live. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Because we have already died with Christ, we should have as little desire for inappropriate worldly pleasures as a dead person would have. We don’t just receive a cosmetic makeover, to make us look better on the outside. Nor do we simply add a Christian veneer that only puts a fake covering over our inner, sinful life. Our old nature is not renewed or even reformed; instead, it is put to death!
Second, our life is hidden with Christ (3b). To have our lives hidden with the One who is seated at the right hand of God gives us both security and satisfaction. The image here is of a treasure that is stored away in a secure place. Like a seed buried in the earth, our real lives are hidden from the world, only to be revealed when Christ returns. Our new life is a mystery or secret to those who don’t understand spiritual matters. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says it like this, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Third, Christ is our life (4a). In a very real sense for the believer, Christ is what life is all about. Without Him we would be dead in our sins. In John 14:6, Jesus said about himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” By realizing that Christ is our life, we can have a new attitude about anything and everything that happens to us. Does this mean that suddenly our lives will be perfect and easy? No. But it does mean that if He is truly our life, we have nothing to fear.